New York state Sen. Jeff Klein accused of sexual misconduct

A former staffer has come forward to accuse Democratic New York state Sen. Jeff Klein of forcibly kissing her in 2015.

In an exclusive interview with HuffPost, 30-year-old Erica Vladimer said Klein “shoved his tongue” down her throat at a bar. A month after the incident, Vladimer says she left her job working for Klein.

“The fact that there was an environment that could make me doubt the self-confidence that I worked so hard to have ― that I got from the strong women in my life ― made me feel like it wasn’t the place for me,” Vladimer said of her decision to leave. “And that maybe the government wasn’t for me.”

New York Senator Jeff Klein
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New York Senator Jeff Klein
Deputy Majority Leader State Senator Jeff Klein holding a press conference at the Samuel Seaberry Playground regarding emails to alert to parents of when a sex offender moves into a zipcode. (Photo By: Julia Xanthos/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
State Senator Jeff Klein addresses the media regarding legislation to increase homeowner rights for residents as evictions rise in New York December 22, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES)
Senator Jeff Klein (L-R), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins congratulate New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after he signed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act at the Capitol in Albany, New York January 15, 2013. The bill was passed by both the Senate and Assembly during a news conference. REUTERS/Hans Pennink (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Senator Jeff Klein attends EFA's 7th Annual Blossom Ball at Cipriani Downtown on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: (L-R) Tamer Seckin, MD, Padma Lakshmi and Senator Jeff Klein attend EFA's 7th Annual Blossom Ball at Cipriani Downtown on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
LAKE PLACID, NY - MAY 31: Former Senator George McGovern (D-SD) poses for a photo with New York assemblyman Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) at the Presidential Rural Issues Forum May 31, 2003 in Lake Placid, New York. The Democratic Rural Conference of New York is comprised of 41 rural counties in the state with populations of less than 150,000 residents. (Photo by Nancie Battaglia/Getty Images)

Klein “unequivocally” denied the accusation in a statement to HuffPost provided by his lawyer.

Vladimer worked for the New York Senate from 2013 to 2015, first as a fellow, then as a policy analyst and counsel for the Independent Democratic Conference, reporting directly to Klein’s deputy chief of staff. Klein leads the IDC, and Vladimer said she worked with him on education budgets and volunteered for his 2014 campaign.

“It was very professional,” Vladimer said of her time working with Klein.

Erica Vladimer, 30, is accusing State Sen. Jeff Klein of forcibly kissing her in 2015.

But that changed on April 1, 2015. The state budget had just passed in the early morning, so she and other colleagues working in the capital went to a local Albany bar, Justin’s, a few blocks away. Vladimer said she, like many of them, had been up for nearly 48 hours working nonstop as the budget loomed.

Vladimer said she got drinks with six to eight other IDC staff members. That included Klein and Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino, who was dating Klein at the time.

In a conversation with both Klein and Savino, Vladimer mentioned that her father and Klein attended the same high school.

High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct
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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing dozens of women, including a number of well-known celebrities, over the past several decades.

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Matt Lauer was fired from 'Today' after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct that allegedly included giving a co-worker a sex toy and dropping his pants in front of a female employee in his office.

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Actor Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexual assault by two women from the Amazon series, "Transparent."  

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Eleven women have come forward accusing President Donald Trump of unwanted touching or kissing. Trump has called the sexual harassment claims 'fake news.'

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 CBS Corp CEO Leslie Moonves resigned from the company, the company said on Sunday, amid allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

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Sen. Al Franken is accused of kissing and groping a woman without her consent during a United Service Organizations (USO) tour in 2006.

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Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of forcing women to watch him masturbate, according to the New York Times.

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Director Bret Ratner has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.

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Actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him when he was 14 years old.

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Roger Ailes, the former president of Fox News Channel, was accused of sexually harassing former anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other women from the network.

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Several women accused TV host Charlie Rose of sexual misconduct, including groping and lewd phone calls.

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Bill Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations from about 60 women, including several women who claim he drugged them.

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Four women, including several that were also fellow Scientologists, have accused actor Danny Masterson of sexual assault, according to HuffPost.

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Mark Schwahn, the former "One Tree Hill" showrunner, was accused of sexual harassment by a large number of the show's cast and crew.

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Roy Moore faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with underaged girls.

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Bill Clinton faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct while he was president of the United States, with accusers including Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of rape, Kathleen Willey who said he groped her and Paula Jones who said he exposed himself to her without consent.

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Actor Casey Affleck settled lawsuits out of court wth two women who accused him of sexual harassment.  

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Bill O'Reilly has reportedly made numerous settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment.

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Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic congressman was sentenced to 21 months in prison in September 2017 after pleading guilty to sexting a teenage girl.


Veteran journalist Mark Halperin has been accused of sexually harassing women while he worked at ABC News.

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Singer R. Kelly is accused of holding women against their will in houses in Illinois and Georgia in a reported 'sex cult.'

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Former Fox Host Eric Bolling was accused of sending unsolicited lewd text messages to female colleagues.

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Director Roman Polanski fled the US after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Several other women have also come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

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Former champion boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1992. 

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Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of his former patients and athletes.


Music mogul L.A. Reid left his position as Epic Records CEO/Chairman in 2017 amid harassment claims by a female assistant.

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Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned following reports that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress' allegation of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein.

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Several women have accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during photo ops.

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Chris Savino (right), creator of  'The Loud House' was suspended by Nickelodeon after being accused of making unwanted advances toward multiple women.

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Actor Steven Seagal was accused of sexual misconduct by Inside Edition's chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero.

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Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director of National Public Radio, was accused of inappropriate conduct with two women in 1990s.

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Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexually harassing a production assistant when he was 48 and she was a high school senior.

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Jeremy Piven was accused by actress Ariane Bellamar of groping her on two separate occasions. Piven 'unequivocally' denied the allegations.

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Ben Affleck apologized for acting 'inappropriately' towards Hilarie Burton during an appearance on MTV's "Total Request Live" in 2003.

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Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman he went on a date with.

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Andy Dick was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct on set, including groping people’s genitals, unwanted kissing/licking and sexual propositions.

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Rep. Ruben Kihuen, (D) Nevada, was accused of making repeated, unwanted propositions for dates and sex to a woman that once worked on his campaign.

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Actor Ed Westwick was accused by actress Kristina Cohen of raping her in his home.

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David Guillod, producer of 'Atomic Blonde,' is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several woman.

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Andrew Kreisberg, the showrunner for "Supergirl," was suspended in November 2017 amid numerous sexual harassment allegations by members of his staff.

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Actor Tom Sizemore was reportedly told to leave a film set in 2003 after an 11-year-old actress told her mother that he had touched her genitals.

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Steve Jurvetson left his own venture capital firm after allegations of sexual harassment

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A former model accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him 36 years ago.

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Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulted her at an award ceremony in 2013.

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A former writer for 'Mad Men' said the show's creator Matthew Weiner told her that she owed it to him to let him see her naked.

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Ron Jeremy has been accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women and the allegations span more than 30 years.

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Multiple women accused producer Adam Fields of touching them inappropriately and sexually propositioning them.

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Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by former staffers.

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John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, was accused of crossing the line with employees, including unwanted hugs.

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Singer Nick Carter was accused of rape by a former member of the all-girl teen band Dream, Melissa Schuman.

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A singer accused billionaire Richard Branson of sexual assault during an event as his Necker Island in the Caribbean. Branson says he has no recollection of the matter.

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Talent agent Adam Venit is accused of grabbing actor Terry Crews' genitals.

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Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez), Marilyn Manson former longtime bassist, was accused of rape by singer Jessicka Addams.

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Ross Levinsohn, Los Angeles Times CEO and publisher, has reportedly been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits and would rate the "hotness" of his female colleagues, according to a report by NPR.

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“He was really excited, he thought it was really cool,” Vladimer said. “He looked at Senator Savino and said, ‘Dianne, did you hear what Erica just said? Her dad went to Christopher Columbus High School.’”

Vladimer said she and Klein didn’t normally socialize. Chatting with Klein so casually at this bar was a rare moment, and a potentially significant networking opportunity for an aspiring government worker.

The two went outside to smoke a cigarette, and that’s when she says Klein forced himself on her. After briefly looking over her shoulder, Vladimer said Klein grabbed her head as she turned back around.

“All of a sudden there was a hand on the back of my head and he shoved his tongue down my throat,” she said. “In my head it lasted forever, I don’t think it lasted even three seconds.”

Vladimer said she could taste the cigarette the senator had been smoking.

“I pulled away and I said, ‘Senator, absolutely not.’” she said. “And he looked at me and said, with this stupid little grin on his face, ‘What? What?’ Like he was being coy, almost trying to flirt and play a game.”

Vladimer said she continued to rebuke the senator as he played dumb, his voice “a little higher pitched” as he continuously, innocently asked, “What? What? What did I do?”

Shaken and unsure how to react, Vladimer said she went back inside the bar, hoping to brush off the encounter. Fifteen minutes later, Vladimir said she was too overwhelmed to maintain her composure. She said she felt ashamed that her first thought wasn’t that Klein had done something inappropriate, but to worry that his girlfriend might have seen them.

“I will never forget the first thought in my head was, ‘Oh my god, did Savino see that? Because if she did, my life is over.’”

Savino told HuffPost that the incident described by Vladimer “never happened.”

“I’ve known Senator Klein personally and professionally for almost 16 years,” Savino said. “And I’m sure you know he and I have more than a professional relationship, so I know him better than anybody. This never happened.”

Savino added that she would have immediately taken action if she had seen or been told of the alleged assault that night.

Klein’s lawyer, Michael Zweig, admits Klein and Vladimer were at the bar together that night, and even that they went out to smoke a cigarette. But Klein never assaulted her, he said. And the lawyer said that a separate investigation he conducted found no staff members at the bar that night who witnessed such an incident.

By her own admission, Vladimer says no one saw the alleged assault.

In his letter, Zweig also said someone would have seen an assault, if it had happened, because of the large windows that look into the bar. Klein’s spokeswoman provided a photo of the inside of the bar to HuffPost.

Inside the bar of Justin's.

“In view of all the foregoing, it simply defies credibility and reason to suggest that Sen. Klein would have, in full view of both his longtime girlfriend, numerous staff members, and in the middle of a very visible and public street, assault Ms. Vladimir [sic], as her allegation inaccurately suggest,” Zweig’s statement said.

Following her alleged assault, Vladimer bolted from the bar and made her way to a friend’s house at approximately four in the morning. There, she told her friend and her friend’s fiancé what she had experienced.

“She was hysterically crying, not able to breathe, couldn’t catch her breath,” Vladimer’s friend, who asked to remain anonymous because she still works in New York state politics, told HuffPost. “I’ve only seen her like that maybe one other time ever. It takes a lot to be sobbing hysterically, she’s not a big crier.”

Her friend stayed up with Vladimer for the next couple hours as she detailed her assault, both women said. She eventually fell asleep on her friend’s couch.

Vladimer said she never filed a formal complaint against Klein because she felt ashamed and blamed herself for the assault at the time.

She told HuffPost of other incidents of sexual harassment she faced while working for the Senate, including an incident in which a married man whom she looked up to as a mentor told her the two had “sexual tension” to sort out.

“What did I do to make these men think it was OK to treat me that way?” Vladimer said of her experience. “What I realized, and what took me a very long time ― too long ― to realize, is that there is nothing I could have done differently.”

Before going on the record with HuffPost, Vladimer sought advice from Democratic State Sen. Liz Krueger about whether or not to come forward. Krueger has been a proponent of protecting women in the workplace. Vladimer never identified Klein by name, and said Krueger never asked.

After later finding out the accused was Klein, Krueger declined to comment on the specific allegations, but talked about her impression of Vladimer when they first spoke. 

“I find her to be a sincere and credible person who was clearly very shaken about what happened to her that she made the decision to leave state government in Albany because of it,” Krueger told HuffPost. “And that she comes forward not because she’s looking for a payday, nor does she think this is somehow helpful to her. She actually recognizes that the exposure could be extremely difficult for her, believes truly that she needs to speak out so that other women don’t fall victim to the same kinds of behavior that she had to go through.”

Vladimer said she wants to help protect other vulnerable women with political aspirations. That numerous powerful people at the height of their industries are being held accountable for sexual assault also encouraged her to come forward.

A number of sexual misconduct cases have left their mark on New York state politics. In 2003, Michael Boxley, an aide to Speaker Sheldon Silver, was arrested in a rape case (he later pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct). In 2009, former member of the State Senate Hiram Monserrate was convicted of domestic violence. Democratic New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez resigned in 2013 over allegations of sexual harassment made by former aides. And in November, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin was sanctioned in the Assembly for sexual harassment after a 17-month investigation and can no longer have interns.

“I think it’s very important, when you look at things such as sex harassment and assault, it’s not about the sex, it’s about the power,” Vladimer said. “The abuse of power over people under you, people who don’t have the same amount of power as you. Power being used in a way they felt they had the right to.”

Vladimer said one day she’d like to run for office, but can’t do that if she is unable to stand up for herself and women like her.

“I hope to help the women who might have been in a similar situation and who left [politics] like I did, to realize that they’re not alone and they’re probably not done with all of the things they could get done in government,” she said. “We should come together and continue on our journey. I want to try to empower other women to use their voice, and their own personal stories, to help affect the change they want to see.”

Vladimer said she doesn’t necessarily want Klein leave office, but for him to instead use this as an opportunity to do better.

“I think Senator Klein needs to step up,” she said. “As a leader of a very powerful conference in the New York state legislature, he has the ability to effectuate change. We have the Senate Dems who put out legislative packages on sexual harassment, and the governor saying he’s going to discuss proposals. What’s the IDC going to do? What’s the GOP going to do?”

Part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) recent sexual harassment proposal focuses on preventing the use of taxpayer money to fund sexual harassment settlements. And many state Senate Democrats have put out proposals of their own to combat the problem.Now it’s Klein’s turn to act, she said.

“Let’s let Klein step up,” she said. “And if he doesn’t step up, then he should definitely step down.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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