Former State Senator Marc Panepinto could soon be spending time in prison after pleading guilty to a public corruption charge, involving an incident with a female staff member.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, during a 2016 fundraising trip to New York City with the female staffer, Panepinto made, "unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances which were rebuffed by the staff member," while the two were in the staff member's hotel room. U.S. Attorney James Kennedy says Panepinto then returned in the early morning hours in an, "unsuccessful attempt to get back into the woman's hotel room."
After returning to Buffalo, the unnamed staffer resigned from her position in Panepinto's district office. Upon her resignation investigations were launched, including one by the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE).
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Panepinto was concerned the Ethics investigation would impact his 2016 re-election campaign. As a result, "Panepinto directed a senior staff member to meet with the woman and offer her money and/or new employment if she refused to participate in the investigation." The female staffer attended the first meeting on March 7, 2016, but refused a follow-up meeting.
On March 15, 2016, Panepinto announced he would not be seeking re-election to the New York State Senate.
"While the defendant's behavior in the hotel room was bad, his efforts to cover-up that behavior constituted a federal crime," said U.S. Attorney Kennedy in a statement his office released on Thursday. "In behaving as he did, the defendant not only abused the trust of a young female staffer over whom he held a position of authority, but he also betrayed the trust of those he was elected to serve."
Panepinto released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
“So that everyone impacted by my actions may hopefully move on, I agreed with the US Attorney’s office to enter into a plea agreement. I certainly understand that my actions were not appropriate and that they had hurtful consequences. For that, I am truly sorry. The love and support of my family over the last two years has allowed me to navigate through this difficult time.”
Panepinto served as State Sentator for the 60th Senate District between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016.
He is expected to be sentenced at a later date.