Former Governor Donald DiFrancesco, facing a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former municipal prosecutor who worked for his law firm, has asked a Superior Court Judge to seal pre-trial deposition and limit questions about his sexual history. DiFrancesco says he wants to make sure his reputation isn't irreparably damaged. His law partner, State Senator Kip Bateman, has also joined the motion. Michelle D'Onofio, who was a partner at DiFrancesco's firm for six years, says DiFrancesco sexually harassed her, and then fired her when she filed an ethics complaint against Warren Township Municipal Court Judge Richard Sasso, a friend of the ex-Governor, for drinking on the job.
If you've followed New Jersey politics closely for the last decade or so, you'll know that allegations like this against DiFrancesco are no big surprise. During his year as Governor, one prominent New York Times reporter made a considerable effort to track down a story about DiFrancesco and a lobbyist; he dropped his bid for a full-term as Governor amidst reports of ethical improprieties before the reporter could finish that story. There are more stories like this – none in the public domain – so DiFrancesco's move to seal discussions of his sexual history should have been expected. One of the reasons he ended his campaign for Governor is that he didn't want to be asked about these rumors – and didn't want his wife and daughters to endure it. 2008 will be no different, and one high-level Republican strongly suggested that DiFrancesco will settle his case with D'Onofio if the court rules against this motion.
DiFrancesco is also seeking a change in venue; he wants the case heard in Somerset County. D'Onofio filed the suit in Essex County, suggesting that Judges in Somerset have too many ties to DiFrancesco and Bateman.