The fate of a Middle Village councilman charged with raping and assaulting a 52-year-old grandmother is in the hands of the criminal justice system. In the meantime, his political clout is eroding.
Last Monday, the City Council voted unanimously (37-0) to remove Councilman Dennis Gallagher from his six committee assignments and minority whip post.
The action came just three days after Gallagher asked Council Speaker Christine Quinn to remove him from the post, and he then voluntarily relinquished his membership on the council’s Budget Negotiating Committee.
In a private meeting, Quinn reportedly encouraged the Republican lawmaker to step down from his assignments following news of the 10-count indictment levied against him last week.
Gallagher, 43, was charged in Kew Gardens Criminal Court on Friday with multiple counts of rape, assault and committing a sexual criminal act. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted and is out on $200,000 bail.
Stripped of his leadership titles, the councilman must also forfeit his $5,000-a-year bonus, paid in two installments every year on top of his regular $112,500 salary. He already received both stipends for the year, but must return the portion covering the period from his indictment to 2008.
Now, Gallagher retains only one official title at City Hall: Councilman.
Last week, Quinn resisted calls by Bayside Councilman Tony Avella to strip Gallagher of that title as well — saying only that she supported his decision to give up his assignments.
“Gallagher has expressed that he does not wish the ongoing criminal proceedings to become a distraction from the important business of the council,” she said. “We believe this decision to be appropriate.”
In a temporary reprieve for Gallagher, the Standards and Ethics Committee also declined to expel him from the council or mete out lesser reprimands — instead deferring until the end of the trial.
For the foreseeable future, both Gallagher and his attorney say he will retain his seat as councilman for District 30, which includes Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood as well as parts of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Forest Hills.
The married father of two turned himself in last Friday morning at the 112th Precinct station house in Forest Hills. There, cops placed the suit-wearing legislator in handcuffs and escorted him to Kew Gardens Criminal Court to face arraignment.
In the courtroom, Gallagher stood silently, his hands still shackled behind his back, as lawyers approached the bench to enter a “not guilty” plea and his wife, Donna, watched from the audience.
“I’ll be vindicated,” the lawmaker later told reporters, as his wife led him by the hand out of the courthouse amid a crush of shouting reporters, photographers and cameramen. “I’m innocent,” he added before ducking into a car on Queens Boulevard.
Last week’s indictment came shortly after Gallagher appeared before the grand jury — against the advice of his lawyer — to testify that his sexual encounter with the alleged victim was fully consensual. Hours later, the 23-member panel voted to indict.
His accuser maintains that Gallagher, after a July 8 meeting at Danny Boy’s bar in Middle Village, offered to drive her home but instead took her to his district office, where, she said, he restrained her hands, forced her to her knees and raped her.
Around 10:30 p.m. the same night, she reportedly called police in the 104 Precinct, claiming the councilman had raped her, and was taken to a hospital for an examination.
“If proven, the charges constitute not only a serious violation of law, but a breach of the trust that we have placed in, and have a right to expect of, our elected public officials,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “It also is a reminder of the fact that no one is above the law.”