U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres rejected Silver’s bid to throw
out the lawsuit, which was filed last summer by Victoria Burhans and
Chloe Rivera in federal court in Manhattan. The women accused
longtime Brooklyn power broker Vito Lopez of subjecting them to a
barrage of unwanted sexual advances.
The decision did not address the merits of the case.
“At the motion to dismiss phase, to keep their claims alive,
plaintiffs need only provide well-pleaded factual allegations, not
evidence, of Silver’s discriminatory actions and intent,” Torres
wrote. “Plaintiffs have done so.”
Bettina Plevan, a lawyer for Silver, in an email said she was
"confident that when the evidence is presented the Speaker will
prevail on all claims."
The Lopez scandal swept through Albany in August 2012, when the
state legislature publicly censured Lopez, 73, after an
investigation found he had groped and harassed female staffers
without their consent.
Silver had previously helped broker a secret settlement with two
women who had accused Lopez of harassment, using $103,000 in public
funds. After details of the deal were revealed, Silver issued an
apology, and Lopez resigned just before the assembly was set to
consider his removal.
The secret agreement may have “encouraged” Lopez to continue his
inappropriate conduct, according to Staten Island District Attorney
Daniel Donovan, who was brought in as a special prosecutor to
investigate the case. He concluded, however, that Lopez should not
be criminally charged.
Lopez has denied sexually harassing anyone. His lawyers did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.
[to top of second column]
Burhans and Rivera, both in their 20s, were hired in April 2012 as
legislative aides, shortly after the secret deal was finalized.
The lawsuit claimed that Silver, one of Albany’s most powerful
politicians, fostered a culture in which sexual harassment was seen
as permissible through his refusal to conduct investigations into
Burhans claimed that Lopez asked her to spend the night with him,
naked, in the governor’s mansion and suggested she sleep with a
member of the governor’s staff to help Lopez get legislation passed,
among other incidents.
In an email, a lawyer for the two women, Kevin Mintzer, said his
clients were pleased by the decision and “look forward to the day
when Mr. Silver and Mr. Lopez are formally held accountable for
violating their rights.”
A lawsuit filed by Burhans and Rivera in state court against the
assembly itself was dismissed in March.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler and Diane Craft)
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