Former state senator Marc Panepinto was sentenced to two months in prison Friday after admitting to trying to silence a female staff member after making unwanted sexual advances toward her.
Panepinto, 53, represented the 60th District as a Democrat for one term after winning election in 2014. He announced he wouldn't be running for re-election in March 2016 and soon after details emerged on an investigation.
While attending a fundraiser Jan. 7, 2016, Panepinto went in to a staff member’s hotel room suggesting they count donations. The former state senator then made a series of unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances.
The staff member eventually resigned from her position, prompting an investigation by the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Panepinto then directed a different senior staff member months later to offer the resigned staff member money and/or new employment if she refused to participate in a state investigation. It was implied the money would come in part by an Act of Congress.
U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said public officials need to be held to a very high standard.
“The defendant essentially sought to purchase this young woman’s silence. In so doing, he placed his own interests above those of his staff and his constituents; he sought to use his position to benefit himself above all others. His abuse of power cost him his office and bought him a federal criminal conviction,” said Kennedy, in a statement.
Panepinto expressed remorse in the courtroom, apologizing to his victim. Along with the prison term, he was also given one year supervised release.
FBI Buffalo Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rob Guyton said the actions of corrupt officials have long lasting impact on almost every aspect of our community.
“As we heard in court today, the actions Mr. Panepinto took as a New York State Senator will forever haunt the former staffer he victimized. His actions will forever impact his colleagues, his constituents, and his actions have ended his public political future," he said.
Guyton added a common theme is developing. Public officials are committing corrupt crimes out of greed.
“Just in the last few months, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office have investigated and charged multiple officials across our region for public relation related crimes," he said. "It is not a good trend as us as a community. We have seen too much of this criminal behavior from people in positions of power and it must stop."
Guyton said it is the expectation of the public that officials represent the people when they enter office and not their personal interests.