Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Looks like it was NY State Senator Jeffrey Kline that was the "Ticking Time Bomb" after all
Last year, Jeffrey Kline called everyone on the registry "ticking time bombs." Now he is accused of a sex crime. NOW who is the ticking time bomb?
Jeff Klein's response to forcible kissing allegation draws criticism
Jon Campbell, @JonCampbellGAN
Published 6:21 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2018
Updated 8:40 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2018
ALBANY - Even before an article was published Wednesday detailing a woman's accusation that state Sen. Jeff Klein had forcibly kissed her, Klein's office released a memo written by a pair of lawyers that concluded her story "defies both reason and credibility."
The memo, written by attorneys from the Manhattan office law firm Loeb & Loeb, suggested accuser Erica Vladimer had "consumed alcoholic beverages throughout the evening," while Klein "did not drink excessively or seem in any way impaired."
And in the hours after Vladimer's side of the story was published on the Huffington Post, six members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference — the group of breakaway Democrats led by Klein — issued a joint statement saying the allegation "would be completely out of character for (Klein)."
Klein, D-Bronx, who leads the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference and strenuously denies the allegation, has launched an aggressive public campaign seeking to bolster his credibility and cast doubt that the alleged incident could have happened as described.
But some of Klein's critics have said that defense has gone too far, accusing him and the IDC of engaging in victim-shaming. They question what impact it may have on those who have suffered harassment in Albany that may be thinking of coming forward.
Klein's allies say his defense has been appropriate and deny any victim-shaming has occurred, noting that he has a right to defend himself, that many of his critics are also his political foes, and that he's entitled to due process.
Critics come forward
Vladimer, who worked as a policy analyst and counsel to the IDC, accused Klein of kissing her without consent during a cigarette break outside an Albany bar when Klein, Sen. Diane Savino and some staff members were celebrating passage of the state budget in 2015.
Klein, who represents parts of lower Westchester County, has repeatedly denied the incident happened and has said he has no intention of stepping down as leader of the IDC
On Friday, the state Working Families Party issued a statement calling on Klein to give up his leadership post, citing his attempts to discredit Vladimer's story.
"We believe Senator Klein’s response attempting to discredit the former employee who accused him was unacceptable," the party's statement read. "Based on that conduct and the seriousness of the charges, the WFP calls on both the IDC and the Senate to remove him from his leadership posts until the investigation is completed.”
The influential, left-leaning third party has clashed with Klein over the IDC's long-standing alliance with Republicans.
Savino, D-Staten Island, dismissed the criticism as political.
Savino, who is also Klein's girlfriend and a member of the IDC, was present at the Albany bar in 2015 and has denied the incident occurred.
"It's pretty clear that this has more to do with politics than anything else," Savino said in a statement.
Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino, D-Nassau County, took her outrage to Twitter on Thursday to speak out about the IDC members' statement, accusing them of trying to "protect the power interest of the IDC."
"The accuser should not be subjected to victim shaming now that the story is public!" Pellegrino tweeted. "Given that victims rarely have any upside to coming forward, #IStandWithHer."
The statement, which was signed by the six IDC members other than Klein and Savino, pledged "complete confidence" in Klein, calling him a "longtime champion for women and for the state" while saying the alleged conduct would be out of character for him.
Among those on the joint statement was Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, who said Friday it was meant to signal support for Klein as leader and not cast doubt on the victim's story.
The other six @IDC4NY members: "We have complete confidence in Senator Klein, and we stand by him" https://t.co/BYYwX2Unhvpic.twitter.com/mb0sdS3n2l
— Joseph Spector (@GannettAlbany) January 11, 2018
"I don't want to cast doubt on anyone that has a story to tell, and they should be welcome to tell that story, and that's important," Carlucci, an IDC member, said in a phone interview.
"That's not the intention. It's simply to say: 'Look, Senator Klein is a capable leader and I support him as leader.' And until an investigation is followed through on, then I really can't speak further on that."
Carlucci said he supports allowing the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate the matter, which Klein formally requested Thursday night.
Speaking Friday on Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would wait for an investigation to be completed before weighing in on whether Klein should remain IDC leader.
"There’s going to be an independent investigation," said Cuomo, a Democrat. "I think we … should wait and see what that investigation says.”
The memo released by Klein's office, written by attorneys Michael Zweig and Mark Goldberg, runs through the events of the evening.
It's based on "10 separate interviews with present and former staff, and others," according to the memo.
"The Former Staffer is described by witnesses who were present at the gathering as having consumed alcoholic beverages throughout the evening," the memo reads.
When it describes Klein's alcohol consumption that night, the memo takes a softer tone: "All of the witnesses we spoke to confirmed that Sen. Klein did not drink excessively or seem in any way impaired that evening."
Vladimer could not be reached for comment.
But in an interview with NY1, she dismissed the insinuation that alcohol consumption would have anything to do with whether Klein forcibly kissed her.
"I had drinks, but honestly — so what?" Vladimer said. "Does that put a green light over my head to anybody to try and shove their tongue down their throat, to use their power over me?”
Klein has been using a public-relations firm, Global Strategies Group, to help send out statements of support for him to members of the media, including from some former staffers and community leaders.
"While we cannot comment on the specifics of the allegation, we can attest that the behavior alleged is completely out of step with the man we have worked closely with, and some of us have known personally and professionally for years," read one letter Friday from eight former staff members.
Vladimer confided in state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, about the allegation in the weeks prior to making her story public, though both say Vladimer did not make the identity of the senator known during their conversations.
Krueger, who sits with the main Senate Democratic Conference that has frequently clashed with the IDC, said Vladimer was aware there could be a backlash.
Vladimer understood that "whomever she was accusing would deny it and complain that she was making things up and that she was in some way unstable," Krueger said in a phone interview Wednesday.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Vladimer said it's "time to hold our elected officials accountable."
"I am willing to risk everything to help that happen," she wrote.
Jon Campbell is a correspondent for the USA TODAY Network's Albany Bureau.