'I was Gov-struck' - McG aide

September 17, 2006

By Joanna Molloy

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey sexually harassed and assaulted Golan Cipel during his tenure as the state's homeland security chief, the former Israeli Army officer told the Daily News yesterday.

Cipel relayed quite a different reality from the one McGreevey recounts in his new book, "The Confession," in which he describes their alleged sexual affair and writes that he "first kissed" Cipel in his house while his wife Dina lay in the hospital after delivering their baby.

"I wasn't his lover," Cipel, 37, said. "I didn't have sex with him. I never heard anything from him saying that he loved me. The only things that happened were sexual harassments. And unwanted sexual advances and assaults."

Cipel, an intelligent, tough, ex-army lieutenant who's spoken to The News over a period of months, recalled that night in 2001.

"One night, McGreevey called me and asked me to come over to speak to him about something related to work," Cipel said. "I came to his house and we had a good conversation and, all of a sudden, he asked me to go to a bar. I said, 'I think it's inappropriate for you to go to a bar, you're the governor.' And he said, 'This is my neighborhood. I grew up here, everybody knows me, I'm fine. I just want to get out a little bit.'

"I thought, he's the governor, I guess he knows what he's doing, so we went. There was a state trooper outside guarding the house and the trooper insisted he escort him. McGreevey said no, but we went to a little neighborhood bar in the Woodbridge area and the state trooper is behind us. Everybody inside knows him. He ordered a beer for himself and for me. I said, 'I don't really drink.'

"He drank, I think, two glasses. He tells me, 'Come on, be a man, drink a little more.' I just took a few sips. I'd left my briefcase at his house so I had to get it. The bar had a liquor store and he said he wanted to buy liquor. He bought Jagermeister. I drove him back home, I got my bag and he said, 'The news is coming on, please stay, I want to talk to you about something.'

"He was pouring us drinks and he was drinking his. I didn't feel any warning signals or hostile atmosphere. I've thought a lot about this since. I thought he was just a normal guy. McGreevey was drinking. I said, 'I really have to leave, it's getting late.' He escorted me to the door and all of a sudden he said, 'I need to give you something, but it's upstairs.'

"I said, 'Okay, I'll wait,' and he said, 'No, come with me, it'll be easier.' I was innocent, I had no clue this guy had any intentions. We went to the upper level. To the right was a bedroom and to the left, a den with his office.

"He turned and pushed me with a lot of strength to the bedroom, and I was in shock. He put his hands to my chest and pushed me into the bedroom. He pushed me onto the bed and jumped on me.

"We wrestled and he stopped. And there was this moment when the two of us were in the room. And I asked him, 'Why did you think I was gay?' And he said, 'Everybody's a little bit gay.' I was very embarrassed.

"If you would have asked me, before this happened, what would I do? I would say I'd punch the guy in the mouth. But I completely froze, and I just hurried out, out of the house. I went home and I couldn't sleep."

When he saw his boss the next day, Cipel said, the only thing McGreevey said to him was, "I got rid of the liquor."

"I never thought this would happen to me," Cipel added. "I realized my whole life was in the hands of this man. He controlled the police, appointed the judges, the attorney general. I'm a new immigrant, with only a visa. I didn't know what to do."

Told of Cipel's claims, McGreevey told The News through a spokesman: "The book is rigorously honest and I stand behind its integrity."

In his book, McGreevey writes: "I took Golan by the hand and led him upstairs to my bed. We undressed and he kissed me. It was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean. ... I pulled him to the bed and we made love like I'd always dreamed: a boastful, passionate, whispering, masculine kind of love."

Cipel also describes an atmosphere of juvenile sexuality around McGreevey: "He'd talk about sex he'd had with prostitutes, female prostitutes. He's asked guys, if he saw them with women, 'Do you have sex with her?' The governor acted like a teenager. He surrounded himself with young men in their 20s and 30s, but he didn't understand they were there because he worked with them, not because they were his friends."

Cipel, now working in Israel, said he received letters signed "Jim's friends," threatening him if he talked. Cipel said he has dropped his harassment lawsuit against McGreevey - despite financial settlement offers through his lawyers - "because I wanted to get on with my life."

"And investigators from the FBI came here and concluded that I did not try to blackmail him," Cipel said. "I was just the only one with the courage to speak out."

Cipel and McGreevey agree on one thing.

The former governor, who resigned in 2004 after admitting to having been a closeted "gay American," said in his book, due out Tuesday, that he felt "invincible" at the time.

Cipel said, "Once I asked him, 'Who do you report to?'

"And he said, 'Only God is above me,'" Cipel recalled.

In fact, Cipel said he didn't know whether it was appropriate for him to be appointed homeland security adviser since he wasn't a citizen, and that he wanted to tell the media that he never claimed to have homeland security expertise, and that his rank of lieutenant in the Israeli Army was common, but McGreevey forbade it: "He said, 'I'm the most powerful governor in the nation. I can appoint whomever I want.'"

Cipel took the job, he said, because "New York is the place I love more than anywhere else in the world. I wanted to help New York, New Jersey and America, especially after 9/11.

"I am no longer afraid," Cipel said. "McGreevey tried to intimidate me. But I consider myself a New Yorker and an Israeli. And that is a tough combination."