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Florida Lawmaker Faces Ethics Probe over Alleged Sexual Harassment

AlceeHastings [dot] House [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Just when House Democrats thought they had the sexting scandal involving former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner behind them, another potential mess has surfaced.

There were reports Wednesday that Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings has been accused of sexual harassment by a former female staffer and that the 74-year-old lawmaker faces a House ethics probe over the charges.

The conservative group Judicial Watch, which filed a lawsuit against Hastings on behalf of Winsome Packer, said that the Office of Congressional Ethnics is well into an inquiry about the matter and will decide whether to recommend a further investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

Packer has accused Hastings of subjecting her to "unwelcome sexual advances" and "unwelcome touching" while she worked on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which the congressman chaired.

She also claims that Hastings and staff directors threatened to retaliate against her if she reported the alleged sexual harassment.

Responding to the lawsuit when it was filed last March, Hastings asserted that it was filled with "inaccuracies" and said in a statement, "I have never sexually harassed anyone.  In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me.  When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, 'How bizarre!'"

Nonetheless, Hastings has had previous troubles involving ethics charges.  In 1989, he was impeached and convicted by the Florida Senate for bribery and perjury, losing his job as a U.S. District Judge.  During a criminal trial in the same case, Hastings won acquittal when his alleged co-conspirator refused to testify against him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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