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Ex-Assemblyman Faces Sex Charges Involving a Minor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former Assemblyman Tom Connolly, whose brief political career ended amid allegations that he sexually harassed women staff members and cruised for prostitutes, has been charged with four counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Two misdemeanor and two felony charges filed Tuesday in Municipal Court allege that Connolly, 50, engaged in sex with a 14-year-old girl in National City.

Connolly, a Democrat from Lemon Grove, lost his reelection bid in 1994. The Assembly in December agreed to settle a sex harassment claim against him by two former aides for $200,000 rather than go to trial.

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Connolly is charged with oral copulation with a minor, lewd conduct with a minor, soliciting prostitution and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is set to be arraigned Aug. 22.

Connolly said he is innocent and will vigorously defend himself in court. He said his accuser is a “disgruntled criminal defendant” who became angry at him when he proposed to defend her against a charge of lying to police by revealing to the judge that her live-in boyfriend beat her.

“She made allegations against me and as a result I told the judge and got off the case,” Connolly said. “I’m surprised that after all these months someone would take the allegations seriously.”

A conservative Democrat and Vietnam veteran, Connolly represented a district in eastern San Diego County for a single term.

As he was beginning his reelection try in 1994, the local press discovered facts about his past that had gone undetected during the 1992 campaign: that he had been divorced three times, was a recovering cocaine addict, had filed for bankruptcy and had fallen behind in child support payments.

About the same time, female staffers accused Connolly of making lewd comments and the San Diego vice squad tailed him as he drove along a street that is a notorious haven for prostitutes.

Connolly was defeated for reelection in 1994 by Steve Baldwin, a conservative Republican and former organizer for the Christian right wing. Connolly returned to his law practice, including cases in Juvenile Court. When he was elected in 1992, he had billed himself as a “children’s advocate.”

Along with practicing law, Connolly has had a Sunday afternoon talk show on local radio, discussing legal and political issues. The station manager Wednesday suspended Connolly’s show.

The criminal charges allege that Connolly, whose full name is Thomas Maximus Connolly III, had sex with the 14-year-old in October 1995 and encouraged her to run away from home and skip school.

Gary W. Schons, chief assistant California attorney general in the San Diego office, said the lag between the alleged crime and the charges being filed was because of “delayed disclosure” by the victim.

The criminal charges were filed by the state attorney general after Dist. Atty. Paul Pfingst decided that his office could not investigate the case because it posed a potential conflict of interest. Pfingst’s wife, lawyer Constance Shaner, is a former law partner of Connolly.


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