By John Wawrow (AP Sports Writer)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A former Ottawa Senators assistant general manager pleaded guilty Thursday to harassing a 19-year-old male hotel shuttle driver and might now face a possible lawsuit.
Randy Lee entered the plea to a violation charge of harassment in Buffalo City Court just before his nonjury trial was to begin. He declined comment when leaving the courthouse.
The 57-year-old Lee was charged with inappropriately touching himself while making lewd comments and rubbing the shoulders of the driver while attending the NHL’s pre-draft scouting combine in May.
He was sentenced to time already served – one night in jail – and ordered to pay a mandatory $120 surcharge but was not fined. The maximum penalty for harassment is 15 days in jail and a $250 fine.
The driver’s attorney, Charles Desmond, said the plea ”confirms my client’s version of what happened,” and is something he intends to use in preparing to file suit against Lee and the Senators.
Without going into detail, Desmond alleged the Senators are liable because they continued to employ Lee despite being aware of him doing similar things in the past.
Lee was suspended by the Senators in June and resigned in August after 23 years with the team, including the past five as assistant general manager and GM of the team’s American Hockey League affiliate.
In June, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said there has ”never been an incident recorded” involving Lee while employed by the team.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told The Associated Press he was prepared to proceed with the trial after rejecting Lee’s offer to plead guilty to disorderly conduct, also a violation. Flynn said he consulted with the victim, who was adamant that Lee plead guilty to harassment.
Flynn also said he had taped evidence he was prepared to play in court of Lee acknowledging the driver’s accusations after being arrested.
”Yes, he confessed,” Flynn said. ”That evening, he made admissions to the Buffalo Police Department.”
Lee was arrested on May 31 at his downtown Buffalo hotel, which is about a five-minute drive from HarborCenter, a hockey and hotel complex that was hosting the combine.
According to a police report, Lee was picked up by the driver at a HarborCenter restaurant and bar and asked to sit in the front passenger seat.
Lee then began touching and eventually massaging the driver’s shoulder despite being told to stop. The driver then became frightened when he looked around the streets for help while stopped at a red light, and Lee said: ”Don’t worry, no one will see us.” He then grabbed the driver’s shoulder for a third time.
At that point, Lee turned in his seat to face the driver and made lewd comments while touching his own genitalia. Lee stands at least 6-foot-2, about a foot taller than the driver.
Upon dropping Lee off at the hotel, the driver alerted hotel security, who then contacted police.
The AP does not generally identify victims of a sex crime.
Desmond previously said the driver is in counseling and taking medication after experiencing ”emotional distress.”
Desmond had preliminary contact with Dennis Vacco, who has been hired by the Senators to represent them in the event of a lawsuit. Desmond said he intends to contact Vacco again to determine if the two sides can reach a settlement. If not, Desmond said he plans to file suit in early January.
Vacco did not return a message.
While most harassment cases don’t make it to trial, Flynn said he was obligated to continue because of the driver’s wishes.
”The difference here was that I had a victim who was violated and who was strongly willing to come forward and testify in court,” Flynn said. ”And when I have a victim who has that posture, I have to respect that, and I have to do my job to give the victim justice.”