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A federal investigation has uncovered no evidence that a former aide to New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey tried to extort millions of dollars from him by threatening a sexual harassment suit, according to the aide’s lawyer. Paul Batista, Golan Cipel’s attorney, said federal officials told him that Cipel and another lawyer for his client acted properly during settlement talks in the weeks before Aug. 12, when McGreevey announced that he is gay, had engaged in an extramarital affair with another man and would resign Nov. 15. “I’m certain there’s no chance they would be accused of a crime,” Batista told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “As far as my job, I consider my work done.” Cipel, former state homeland security adviser, has been named by McGreevey associates as the man the governor had an affair with. Cipel has denied that he is gay or had an affair with McGreevey, and has claimed that the governor sexually harassed him. He threatened a sexual harassment suit but never filed it. FBI spokesman Steve Kodak did not comment on the investigation. But other law enforcement officials familiar with the case told the newspaper that they would not dispute Batista’s statements. William Lawler, a lawyer representing the governor, disagreed with Batista’s conclusion. “There’s clearly evidence of extortion,” Lawler said. “It’s up to the government to evaluate how the evidence fits into a total picture.” State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a McGreevey confidant, said Cipel’s lawyers did not offer facts or proof of damages during the settlement talks, but instead “just wanted money.” “It was extortion thinly disguised as a lawsuit,” Lesniak said. “This whole thing is ridiculous.” McGreevey declined to comment through a spokesman. FBI agents have yet to speak with Cipel, who is in his native Israel, but plan to meet with him soon, Batista said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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