Cipel: McGreevey assaulted me

The onetime aide said he wanted to clear the record: The former governor made an advance he rejected.

Sep 17, 2006

Philadelphia Inquirer
By John Shiffman

In his new book, Jim McGreevey vividly recalls his first, magical kiss with Golan Cipel.

Cipel does not remember the 2001 encounter so fondly. The former aide calls it a failed sexual assault that followed shots of Jagermeister. After he pushed New Jersey's governor away, Cipel said, he asked McGreevey why he assumed he was gay.

"And McGreevey said, 'Everybody is a little gay,' " Cipel recalled yesterday in his first extended interview. "I was completely in shock."

Cipel, 37, told The Inquirer that he wanted to speak out to rebut what he called lies in McGreevey's new book, The Confession. He spoke by phone and said he was in his native Israel, where he works for a firm.

Cipel, whom McGreevey identified as his former lover, said he had decided not to write his own book. Still, he said, he wants the record set straight.

"I didn't have sex with him - ever," Cipel said. "In his book, he talks about love, but I never heard anything from McGreevey that was affectionate. The only thing I experienced from him was sexual harassment. Everything else is not true."

Cipel recalled another incident, which he said occurred while McGreevey was recuperating at home after breaking his leg in early 2002.

The former aide said he had taken paperwork to the governor and met with McGreevey, who was lying in bed. Once they were alone, Cipel said, McGreevey began to masturbate.

"He started to moan," Cipel said, "and I told him, 'You're crazy. Your little baby is in here. Your wife and aide are in the kitchen.' He didn't move his face. He had this crazy look in his eye. He patted the bed and said, 'Come sit next to me.' I felt like I wanted to vomit."

McGreevey did not immediately return an e-mail message requesting comment yesterday evening, or a message conveyed through a friend.

In reaction to Cipel's new allegations, State Sen. Ray Lesniak, a longtime friend of the former governor's, called Cipel an "extortionist and opportunist."

"Golan Cipel is a liar and a coward," Lesniak said. "He's proven it his entire history here in the United States over and over again. And he continues to lie and he continues to hide and run away from the truth... . It would be hard to believe him if he said the sun rises in the east and sets in the west."

Shortly before and after McGreevey resigned in 2004, Cipel threatened through lawyers to sue McGreevey for sexual harassment. He did not, and the statute of limitations lapsed.

Yesterday, Cipel said he had enjoyed working on McGreevey's 2001 campaign but had not planned to join the new governor's staff. He assumed that as a non-U.S. citizen, he wasn't eligible.

"He said, 'I can arrange anything. I'm the most powerful governor in the nation,' " Cipel recalled.

Cipel said that McGreevey had misled reporters by calling his then-aide the state homeland security chief, then refused to correct himself. The governor used a cultural stereotype, assuming it would sound good to have an Israeli running counterterrorism efforts, Cipel said.

Instead, the issue lingered in the press.

Cipel said McGreevey, a former mayor of Woodbridge, had been a great campaigner but a lousy state executive.

" 'It's like Woodbridge, just bigger,' " Cipel recalled the governor saying.

Cipel said he had found it odd that McGreevey liked to hang out with single male aides in their 20s and 30s.

"I was his employee," Cipel said. "I wasn't his friend. McGreevey didn't know the line."

In recounting their first encounter, Cipel said it had occurred while the governor's wife was in the hospital. McGreevey took him to a bar, Cipel said, then back to his condo for shots of Jagermeister.

"When I wouldn't drink, he said, 'C'mon! Be a man,' " Cipel recalled. Cipel said that McGreevey had asked him to look at something upstairs "for work," and that Cipel had said OK.

"So McGreevey comes up, turned toward the den very fast, and pushed me toward the bedroom. I froze, and I said, 'What's going on?' He pushed me again on my chest. He jumped on me, and we wrestled. He tried to kiss me. He tried to sexually assault me."

Cipel said he had broken free.

"I was so scared," he said. "I knew there was a state trooper outside. If I hit the governor back, who would they blame? I rushed out. I went home. I couldn't sleep all night. Thoughts in my mind were running. What am I going to do?"