New York Post EDITORIAL - July 21, 2008
Cavalier. Outrageous. Disgraceful.
Those are the exact words that pit- bull Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman used last week to describe the conduct of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in handling multiple sexual-assault allegations against his former chief counsel, Michael Boxley. Back in 2003, Boxley plea-bargained his way out of a rape charge leveled by a 22-year-old legislative intern, admitting to a misdemeanor charge for which he got a mere six years' probation. That was two years after another legislative staffer charged that Boxley had assaulted her sexually. Silver's response: He conducted what the initial victim called a sham investigation - after publicly expressing his "utmost personal confidence" in Boxley and praising his "integrity" and "character."
After Boxley's conviction, the second woman filed a civil suit against both Silver and Boxley - which then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer generously settled on their behalf with a $507,500 payment to the victim. Plus legal fees. Problem is, $480,000 of that money was billed to New York's beleaguered taxpayers - and Silver himself got off scot-free, without having to pay a red cent. That led a retired lawyer, Joseph Santora, to file his own lawsuit, demanding that Silver and Boxley be required to pick up the entire tab. Last week, Judge Goodman dismissed the case - ruling that Spitzer was legally obligated to defend the two men at public expense. But she still took a clear and unmistakable shot at Speaker Silver - denouncing his "cavalier conduct" as "outrageous and disgraceful."
It's about time someone in a position of authority said so. Because apart from state Sen. Sen. Tom Duane (D-Man.) - who accused Silver of "dropping the ball" on sex crimes by ignoring "a big warning" in the first case involving Boxley - there was barely a peep to be heard from the folks up in Albany. But there's a larger issue here than a judge's finally calling out Shelly Silver - and just in time for his first serious primary challenge in decades, to boot. Now, a convincing case can be made for taxpayers having to foot the bill when public officials are sued over their actions in the line of duty, so to speak, as office-holders. Last time we checked, though, rape was not one of the required functions of a chief counsel to the speaker of the state Assembly. Neither is covering up said crime and other similar assaults. Which is why we hope Joe Santora appeals the judge's decision. Which he promises to do - saying, "The sun not coming up tomorrow is less likely." So just wait 'til the sun shines, Shelly.