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Hoyt harassment case ends after Cater forgoes appeal

Lisa M. Cater, whose claims of sexual harassment against Sam Hoyt made headlines around the state in 2017, said Wednesday she will not appeal the decision of a Manhattan federal judge to dismiss her civil suit against the former assemblyman and economic development official.

Cater’s decision ends litigation dating to late 2017 stemming from her claims that Hoyt sexually harassed her, groped her during an encounter in LaSalle Park, and even sent nude photos of himself during a consensual relationship that she said she tried to end. While Hoyt acknowledged the relationship as well as paying Cater $50,000 in exchange for her silence, he has always denied all of Cater’s claims of sexual harassment or that he attempted to continue the relationship.

Now Cater says she feels defeated by the “system,” especially by the inaction of the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) that dismissed her original accusations.

“He won, and it’s done,” she said Wednesday. “I cannot put myself through this any more.”

She reiterated her disappointment in JCOPE, the state ethics agency to which she originally reported her accusations.

“I have no faith in JCOPE,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet early this month dismissed the civil action Cater had initiated against Hoyt and the Empire State Development Corporation that he served as regional president, shortly after The Buffalo News reported her claims in October 2017. She said then that she violated the confidentiality terms of her original agreement after reading in The News the state’s accolades for Hoyt after he resigned from his $157,000-a-year post with the ESD.

Hoyt attorney Carrie H. Cohen said on Feb. 5, following Sweet’s decision, that she considered the case over and that “Mr. Hoyt can finally put this matter behind him.”

Similar claims filed by Cater against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, alleging that he failed to prevent or properly respond to allegations of sexual harassment by a state agency official,  were also dismissed in earlier rulings.

Sweet ruled that the $50,000 Hoyt paid Cater in 2017 stood at the core of his decision.

“By executing those documents, plaintiff waived ‘all claims and potential claims of any kind’ against Hoyt,” Sweet ruled, “including claims for ‘discrimination,’ ‘harassment or retaliation,’ ‘battery,’ ‘assault,’ and any claim ‘arising out of any state or federal discrimination law.’”

Though Cater’s lawyers maintained she agreed not to pursue further legal action in exchange for the $50,000 payment, they said the pact was voided because of “duress” and “involuntariness.” But Sweet ruled the payment accomplished its original intent.

“Plaintiff does not deny that she retained the entire benefit of her bargain,” the judge said, “a decision that amounts to plaintiff’s ratification of the settlement agreement.”

Hoyt has also maintained throughout the entire case that he made the $50,000 payment only after Cater originally demanded $350,000.

Cater said she has been unable to work since the incident and relies on disability payments from Social Security. But she said she harbors no regrets about filing the lawsuit.

“It was not easy for me to do what I did,” she said, “and I now have a whole different outlook about politics.”

Judge dismisses all sexual harassment claims against Sam Hoyt, state agency

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