Albany County District Attorney David Soares on Thursday said the state Assembly’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez was problematic and needs to be reevaluated, Gannett’s Haley Viccaro reports.
Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan investigated the allegations against Lopez in Brooklyn, calling them “alarming” but finding they didn’t rise to the level of a crime. Soares said although there were no criminal charges against Lopez, he believes that it will force the Capitol to reevaluate how they handle allegations.
Soares said Donovan’s office would have referred the case to his office if they thought it should have been further investigated by Albany County. He said if issues occurred outside of Donovan’s jurisdiction he would have turned over the information.
“A prosecutor who is aware of a crime is obligated to make sure that there is an investigation,” Soares told reporters at the Capitol.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and some of his top aides were knocked in reports from Donovan and the Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Wednesday for its handling of the issue, particularly for including a confidentiality agreement in a settlement with two victims and not referring their complaints to the Assembly Ethics Committee.
He said his office was not contacted to look into the issue but that he read the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ report. Soares said there were gaps in the process of investigating Lopez but that his office would not pursue its own investigation.
“There are ethical lapses and institutional lapses in how matters were addressed and reported, but I don’t see anything that could have been done there to cause us to begin an investigation,” Soares told reporters
Soares stressed that victims in the Capitol building have the right to venture outside of the institution and seek remedy through the district attorney’s office or consult with an attorney.
“I think (the Assembly’s process) is awful, and you can go to any district attorney’s office in the state … because we want to make sure that victims are properly cared for,” Soares said.