The New York Times
August 4, 2007
By THOMAS J. LUECK
City Councilman Dennis P. Gallagher, who prosecutors say raped a woman in his Queens campaign office on July 8 after meeting her at a neighborhood bar, surrendered at a Forest Hills police station early yesterday to face 10 counts of rape, criminal sexual acts and assault. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment later in the day and was released on $200,000 bail.
By late yesterday, the political fallout of the charges was apparent. Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, said Mr. Gallagher would step down from his position as minority whip, the second-highest position among three Republican members of the 51-member City Council, and would temporarily remove himself from several committee assignments. His lawyer, Stephen R. Mahler, said in an interview that Mr. Gallagher had no intention of relinquishing his seat on the Council.
Mr. Gallagher, 43, a married father of two, appeared in a business suit and handcuffs at his arraignment before Acting Justice James P. Griffin of State Supreme Court in Queens. District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Mr. Gallagher could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
“If proven, the charges constitute not only a serious violation of the law, but a breach of the trust that we have placed, and have a right to expect of, our elected public officials,” Mr. Brown said.
“His ability to function as a legislator has been significantly impaired,” Mr. Brown said when asked whether Mr. Gallagher, a Republican who was elected to the Council in 2001, should resign from his seat. But Mr. Brown said, “It’s a matter for Mr. Gallagher and his colleagues to decide.”
Mr. Gallagher has acknowledged that he had a sexual encounter with his accuser on July 8, but maintained that the sex was consensual.
“He may have committed a moral transgression, but he did not break the law,” Mr. Mahler said. He added, “The councilman sees no reason to resign when his position is that he did nothing wrong.”
An indictment was announced yesterday after Mr. Gallagher testified before a grand jury. Mr. Mahler said that he had advised Mr. Gallagher not to testify, and that the grand jury proceedings had been unfair to his client.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Gallagher met a woman they described as a 52-year-old grandmother on the afternoon of Sunday, July 8, at Danny Boy’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on Dry Harbor Road in Middle Village. Mr. Brown said yesterday that she and Mr. Gallagher had not known each other before the encounter.
After conversing in the bar, prosecutors said, Mr. Gallagher offered the woman a ride home, but instead took her to his campaign office, which is above his Council district office, at 78-25 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village. It was there that he raped and assaulted the woman, according to the charges.
Mr. Brown said yesterday that “there was no consent in this case,” and that Mr. Gallagher had threatened the woman with physical injury.
Mr. Gallagher appeared at the arraignment yesterday with his wife, Donna, and his brother Kevin. Mr. Mahler said Kevin Gallagher had provided the money for the $200,000 bail.
Later yesterday, a woman at the councilman’s district office said that he would not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Mahler said he intended to file a motion to have the case dismissed on grounds that the grand jury proceedings, and the questions that were asked of Mr. Gallagher by prosecutors, were unfair. “They tended to humiliate and discredit him in front of the grand jury,” Mr. Mahler said.
But Mr. Brown said that the grand jury proceedings had been fair. “We handle thousands of grand jury prosecutions in Queens,” he said. “Each one is fair and thoroughly presented, and this case was no different.”
Ms. Quinn said yesterday, “We have received a written communication” from Mr. Gallagher saying “he does not wish the ongoing criminal proceedings to become a distraction from the important business of the City Council.”
Mr. Gallagher’s several committee assignments, from which he said he would temporarily step down, include positions on the aging, finance, and parks and recreation committees.
The effect in Mr. Gallagher’s district in central Queens was hard to measure yesterday.
Vincent Arcuri Jr., a retired construction manager and chairman of Community Board 5, which covers the area that includes Mr. Gallagher’s district, said residents had not forgotten his work in obtaining city money for landscaping and neighborhood improvements. “As far as I can see, it’s business as usual in the Council district,” he said.
Mr. Gallagher also had defenders yesterday at Danny Boy’s Irish Pub, where eight customers — all men — sat along a polished wooden bar and described a visit the other day by investigators from the office of the Queens district attorney, who were seeking information from anyone who had seen Mr. Gallagher in the bar on July 8.
None of the eight had been there at the time, they said. While all insisted that they not be identified by name, they said Mr. Gallagher might be getting a raw deal.
“They have already convicted him in the minds of the public,” one patron said. “You are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.”
Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company