A New York state senator and an ally of two of the most powerful progressives in the United States turned himself in to police last week after he was accused of strangling his wife during a domestic dispute.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, state Sen. Luis Sepúlveda turned himself in to police at the 48th Precinct in the New York City borough of the Bronx last Monday after the Jan. 9 altercation. He’s charged with criminal obstruction of breathing.
The New York Times reported that the state senator’s wife called police to their home at 6 a.m. after a marital dispute. Both sides alleged assault; Sepúlveda’s wife said that he choked her, while Sepúlveda said she punched him in the face.
Before you think this is small stakes and check out, I’d urge you to consider the outsized role politicians like Sepúlveda can play in the political life of New York City and left-wing politics in general — particularly given the fact he’s closely tied to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and more loosely tied to independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist.
Sepúlveda’s power didn’t just go beyond his committee assignments in the state legislature — although he did have those. In a twist of grim irony, Sepúlveda was the chairman of the New York state Senate’s Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction. He’s since been removed from the position.
“I am immediately removing Senator Sepúlveda as chair of his committee and from all his committee assignments,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement, according to the Free Beacon.
“I take these allegations extremely seriously and will be monitoring this situation closely.”
Republican Minority Leader Rob Ortt demanded Sepúlveda lose the position before he was forced to step down.
“As chair of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, Senator Sepúlveda has an obligation to protect vulnerable individuals,” Ortt said.
“As an alleged abuser himself, he has no right leading that committee, and these allegations must be promptly investigated. If these allegations are true, he should resign immediately.”
Furthermore, Sepúlveda’s colleagues said this wasn’t his first accusation of domestic abuse, demanding he resign from his post.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time allegations of domestic violence have been brought against Senator Sepúlveda,” Democratic New York state Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernández tweeted.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time allegations of domestic violence have been brought against Senator Sepulveda. We need leadership that empowers women — I’m calling for the Senator to submit his resignation https://t.co/nDH14CddjP
— Nathalia Fernández (@Fernandez4NY) January 12, 2021
“We need leadership that empowers women — I’m calling for the senator to submit his resignation.”
Beyond his power in the state legislature, Sepúlveda also served as a kingmaker of sorts — particularly when it came to the progressive Bill de Blasio. When de Blasio first ran to become New York City mayor in 2013, Sepúlveda supported him, giving de Blasio progressive bona fides within Gotham’s Democratic Party power structure and a leg up in the battle to become hizzoner.
Furthermore, no less than Sanders viewed Sepúlveda as an up-and-comer in the mold of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Although not nearly as young or very online as Ocasio-Cortez — Sepúlveda is 56 and doesn’t seem the type to host an Instagram livestream — he’s well-connected in the NYC political universe.
— StreetsPAC (@StreetsPAC) November 3, 2020
In fact, as the Free Beacon’s Brent Scher noted, Sanders’ page touting Sepúlveda’s state Senate campaign was up on Sanders’ website the day the arrest was made. It appears to have been taken down in the days following.
NEW: NYC Democrat Luis Sepulveda, a close ally of @NYCMayor who is still featured on @BernieSanders campaign website, turned himself in today for strangling his wife. https://t.co/F2zO64yffh pic.twitter.com/QfcBzkkX3S
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) January 12, 2021
At the time of the Free Beacon’s report, neither de Blasio nor Sanders had commented.
For his part, Sepúlveda’s attorney said the state senator had been “the victim of recurring physical violence by his estranged spouse for approximately nine years, a situation he has endured because of the young child they share together,” according to The Times.
“This false accusation is a calculated attempt by a disgruntled party to leverage a divorce settlement from a case she filed in Florida this past November,” he added.
“All allegations must be taken seriously and investigated to the full extent of the law, which is why the senator is committed to and will proactively provide full transparency as this matter is resolved.”
In the meantime, apparently unable to read the atmosphere, Sepúlveda showed up at a toy drive in his district two days after he was released — where a reverend and an activist confronted him.
“I don’t applaud domestic violence, because I’ve been a victim myself. My mom — all her life, but when a person admits it, which a lot of people don’t do, they don’t admit what they do, and he has,” Tenants Association President the Rev. Carmen Hernandez, said, according to a News 12 The Bronx video posted to Twitter.
To be fair, he hasn’t admitted to domestic violence.
“I’m compelled to clarify something. First of all, this is for the kids today. This is a wonderful event,” he said.
“I don’t know if the reverend misspoke; I have not admitted to any acts of domestic violence. Let’s make that clear because I have not. We’ll deal with that some other forum, but right now it’s really about the children.”
Which may be just fine. We don’t know how extensive or how well-known his history of domestic violence is. What we do know is that he’s been a progressive favorite in the past. Now, none of them are willing to even talk about Sepúlveda — except to call on him to resign.
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