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When New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey announced his resignation last Thursday, his words were directed to a range of people — from family and friends to political adversaries. But the language also set the framework for his response to any legal fallout emanating from his acknowledged affair with another man. Aides to the governor say they expect the man, 33-year-old Israeli national Golan Cipel, to file a sexual harassment suit against the governor. McGreevey had named Cipel as his homeland security adviser, a $110,000-a-year post he left on Aug. 14, 2002, after questions were raised about his qualifications for the job. Under R.1:3-1, Cipel had until Monday to file the suit since the two-year statute of limitations for filing a Law Against Discrimination action expired Saturday. Cipel’s attorney, Allen Lowy of New York, did not dispel that possibility of a suit during a hastily called news conference late Friday afternoon at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. “Only time will tell,” Lowy said about any potential suit. Cipel did not attend the news conference. Lowy, who read a statement on Cipel’s behalf, did not cite specific sexual harassment allegations, except to say that his client was a victim of repeated advances. Lowy said Cipel was a “victim of one of the most powerful politicians” and that a “manipulative” McGreevey and his staff took “retaliatory actions” when the relationship ended. He said his client endured much “emotional distress and turmoil” and he denied allegations that Cipel tried to extort money from McGreevey. To the contrary, Lowy said, the governor and his staff had offered money to make Cipel go away. Lowy did not say whether he offered to accept it. Aides to the governor could not be reached at press time to respond to Lowy’s comments. But earlier Friday, aides said McGreevey’s attorney, William Lawler III, had contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office to allege that Cipel tried to extort millions of dollars from McGreevey in return for keeping the affair secret. Lawler, a litigation and white-collar crime attorney at Washington, D.C.’s Vinson & Elkins, declined on Friday to discuss details of his conversations with federal prosecutors. But a federal law enforcement source said, “The allegations are being taken very seriously and the FBI is investigating.” The source declined to comment further. McGreevey did not mention Cipel by name when he divulged the affair and said, “I am a gay American.” “Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign,” the governor said. “Let me be clear, I accept total and full responsibility for my actions,” he said. He plans to stay in office until Nov. 15, when Senate President Richard Codey, D-Essex, will become acting governor until the term ends in 2006. SETTING THE FRAMEWORK Neil Mullin, of Smith Mullin in Montclair, N.J., says McGreevey’s characterization of the affair as “consensual” appears to be an effort to establish a defense. “It was a very successful speech, not only for being dignified and brave; it works from a litigation point of view,” says Mullin, who represents plaintiffs in employment matters. “In a hostile environment sexual harassment case, one of the questions for the jury is, were the advances welcome. That’s his way of saying this advance was welcome,” Mullin says. The presence of McGreevey’s wife and parents at last Thursday’s speech also might work to the governor’s advantage, he says. “These kinds of cases are played out on the street and in the press. The appeal to the jury happens from day one,” Mullins adds. But what’s most puzzling about the case is why it progressed this far, according to Mullin. High-profile people hit with sexual harassment complaints frequently settle for six-figure sums before a suit is filed, regardless of the validity of the allegations, in hopes of minimizing “collateral damage” to the defendant’s career and reputation, he says. While the state could not enter into a confidential settlement, McGreevey could do so in his capacity as an individual defendant, says Mullin. The governor has plenty of wealthy supporters who would be willing to pay for such a settlement, he says. IMPACT, TIMING OF RESIGNATION Lawyers have differing views as to how McGreevey’s resignation will affect any defense, should one be needed. Wayne Positan, of Lum, Danzis, Drasco & Positan in Roseland, N.J., says it may not help. “If anything, his resignation was an admission of improper conduct,” says Positan, a management lawyer, “even though he says the action was taken with the integrity of the office in mind.” Another management lawyer, Patrick Stanton, says the governor’s resignation speech seemed calculated to paint his accuser as an extortionist. “There’s already a message … that the case is all about money,” says Stanton of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Morristown, N.J. In his speech, McGreevey said, “I realize the fact of this affair and my own sexuality if kept secret leaves me, and most importantly the governor’s office, vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure.” If a sexual harassment complaint is filed against McGreevey, some employment lawyers anticipate that it will be specific and, perhaps, lurid. “I expect it to be a very detailed complaint,” says Thomas Lewis of Princeton, N.J.’s Stark & Stark. Lewis says a likely scenario would be a quid pro quo claim against McGreevey, alleging that the governor offered him the security post in exchange for sexual favors and that McGreevey violated the LAD by forcing him to resign after questions were raised about his qualifications. Pressure also has begun building from Republican leaders who denounced McGreevey for delaying his departure until after this year’s elections. Had McGreevey stepped down immediately, a special gubernatorial election would have been held in November. One Republican lawyer, William Palatucci, acknowledges that there is little the party could do to force McGreevey to leave office in time for a special election since he is not being charged with a criminal act. “We’re not filing anything” in court, says Palatucci, of Cranford, N.J.’s Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci. “Given this Supreme Court, I certainly wouldn’t see them coming down on our side.” Palatucci was referring to the GOP’s unsuccessful legal effort to block Frank Lautenberg from replacing the scandal-plagued Robert Torricelli as the Democratic contender for the U.S. Senate in 2002. Nonetheless, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, held a press conference Friday to say McGreevey should step down immediately. “The governor rightly said that being gay does not bear upon whether he can govern,” Kyrillos said. “He, however, obviously recognizes that under the circumstances of the serious legal allegations rumored to be brought against him that he cannot, in fact, govern effectively and should, therefore, resign immediately.” John Covaleski, Leonard Post and Charles Toutant contributed to this story.

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