December 1, 2017 / 9:03 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Massachusetts senator's husband subject of sex abuse probe

(Adds Rosenberg quotes)

By Scott Malone

BOSTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - The Massachusetts state senate on Friday prepared to open an independent probe into accusations that Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg’s husband used his political connections to sexually harass men, following a Boston Globe report on the claims.

Rosenberg, a Democrat, told reporters on Friday that he supported the investigation and that his husband, Bryon Hefner, was going to enter an inpatient treatment center for alcohol dependency.

That came the day after the newspaper quoted four unnamed men who said Hefner, 30, had groped them or had other unwanted sexual contact. Hefner in a statement issued by an attorney expressed surprise at the report but did not specifically deny the allegations, the newspaper reported.

“If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true,” Rosenberg, 68, told reporters outside his statehouse office. “I am looking forward to fully cooperating with the investigation.”

Rosenberg did not directly address whether he believed the allegations of sex abuse and declined to answer questions.

The newspaper quoted the four men who accused Hefner, 30, anonymously as they feared their work as political advocates would be imperiled by speaking against the spouse of a powerful lawmaker.

The allegations, which the newspaper said related to incidents in 2015 and 2016, could not be confirmed by Reuters.

“I was shocked to learn of these anonymous and hurtful allegations,” the newspaper quoted Hefner’s attorney-issued statement as saying. “To my knowledge, no one has complained to me or any political or governmental authority about these allegations which are now surfacing years afterward.”

It did not name the attorney. A spokesman for Rosenberg said he did not know who was representing Hefner and Reuters could not immediately reach Hefner for comment.

“These charges are very serious and very disturbing, and I am shocked and saddened,” said Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler, in a statement. “To ensure a completely impartial process ... we will be going to the unprecedented step of bringing in an independent special investigator.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, and Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, agreed with the call for an immediate probe.

“Frankly, I am appalled by the allegations,” Baker told reporters late Thursday.

The allegations are the latest in a wave of sexual assault and sexual harassment claims levied against powerful men in U.S. politics, entertainment and journalism. (Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Alden Bentley and Richard Chang)

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