City Councilman Dennis P. Gallagher resigned from office and pleaded guilty on Monday to two misdemeanors, admitting that he sexually abused a woman in his district office in Middle Village, Queens, last summer while he was intoxicated.
Dennis P. Gallagher pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors.
Mr. Gallagher, 43, a Queens Republican, told the court in a non-emotional tone that he touched the 52-year-old victim against her will, a position in contrast to his earlier claims that they had consensual sex after meeting in a bar. Prosecutors in the office of the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, said the plea deal required that Mr. Gallagher enter and complete an alcohol treatment program.
“On Sunday, July 8, 2007, while I was intoxicated, I intentionally and forcibly touched intimate parts of the complainant and subjected her to sexual contact without her consent,” Mr. Gallagher said during the 11:30 a.m. proceeding in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens. “My conduct was wrong, and I apologize to the complainant.”
In announcing his resignation in court, Mr. Gallagher said it would be “effective close of business on Friday, April 18, 2008.”
The plea deal required Mr. Gallagher to plead guilty to the misdemeanors and pay a court surcharge of $160. He was not required to register as a sex offender, officials said, and he will not serve jail time.
The developments will open a seat on the 51-member City Council, and jockeying to fill it began immediately, with candidates emerging from both parties.
Mr. Gallagher, who is married and has three children, was one of three Republicans on the Council, a seat he first won in 2001. Though he remained in office as his case wound through the courts, his party had temporarily removed him from his leadership and committee posts.
The resignation, guilty plea and apology were welcomed by the victim’s lawyer.
“It’s good news to the citizens and residents of New York City not to have this gentleman as a public official anymore, and we welcome that,” the lawyer, Arnold W. Drucker, said after the proceeding.
Mr. Drucker declined to say if he believed Mr. Gallagher was treated lightly.
“In our society, the victims of crime don’t get to determine the punishment,” he said. He said his client would decide later whether she would pursue a civil case.
The victim, who was not identified because of the nature of the attack, attended the court proceeding before Judge Robert M. Raciti. She did not speak, but her statement was read in court by a prosecutor, Kenneth A. Appelbaum.
“I will never recover from the pain, anguish and humiliation I suffered as a result of this man’s vicious assault and attack on me,” Mr. Appelbaum read.
“He has scarred me for life, and he took away my dignity and self-esteem,” Mr. Appelbaum continued. “He is a sexual abuser.”
The victim said in her statement that it was “disappointing and disgusting” when a public official “betrays our trust by behaving reprehensibly and immorally.”
“That is what is so shameful,” the statement continued. “This man should never be put in a position of trust again.”
A lawyer for Mr. Gallagher, Benjamin Brafman, told the court that “the humiliation felt in this case went both ways.” He criticized the fact that his client was initially charged with raping a woman, though Mr. Appelbaum said in court that the initial charges “were sustained by a legally sufficient quantum of evidence.”
Outside court, however, Mr. Brafman said: “This was never a rape case. There was never a rape. He should never have been charged with rape.” He said Mr. Gallagher has a “drinking problem.”
The special election to fill Mr. Gallagher’s seat — which must take place within 45 days after his resignation is declared official by the mayor — is officially a nonpartisan contest. The City Charter forbids candidates to use the names of established political parties in special elections, in an effort to minimize the influence of the parties.
Nonetheless, party affiliation, and the power behind it, is clearly likely to play a role in the special election.
On the Republican side, there is Mr. Gallagher’s predecessor, former City Councilman Thomas V. Ognibene, who left his seat in 2001 because of term limits. Mr. Ognibene, the former Republican leader in the Council, has been Mr. Gallagher’s primary political benefactor.
Another Republican who is planning to run for the seat is Anthony Como, a commissioner with the city’s Board of Elections. Mr. Como, who once worked as an assistant district attorney in Queens, ran for an Assembly seat in 2005, losing to Andrew Hevesi, the son of former State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi.
Mr. Como has the support of the Queens Republican organization, whose chairman, Philip Ragusa, noted that Mr. Ognibene had been far less involved in the party leadership than Mr. Como. “Tom has not really been involved in the last few years in the party,” Mr. Ragusa said.
On the Democratic side, there is Elizabeth Crowley, a cousin of Representative Joseph Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party chairman.
She is also the daughter of Walter and Mary Crowley, each of whom once represented many of the same Queens neighborhoods — Middle Village and Ridgewood — in the City Council. She is a member of the local chapter of the Building Trades Council, a decorative painter and home restorer.
Daryl Khan contributed reporting.