Before Rep. Michael Grimm's alleged misconduct put him on the wrong side of a 20-count indictment this week, former Rep. Vito Fossella was humiliated by his own scandal in the very same congressional district, which covers Staten Island and other parts of New York City.
Exactly six years ago Thursday, Fossella was arrested and charged with drunken driving in suburban Virginia; 10 days later, he admitted that the woman who picked him up when he was released from jail was the mother of his child in an extramarital affair.
"I have had a relationship with Laura Fay, with whom I have a 3-year-old daughter," Fossella said in a prepared statement on May 10, 2008. "My personal failings and imperfections have caused enormous pain to the people I love and I am truly sorry."
Ten days after that revelation, Fossella announced he would retire in January 2009 after 11 years in the House, ending an otherwise untarnished career as the successor to Republican Reps. Susan Molinari and her father, Guy Molinari, who had represented Staten Island since 1981.
Fossella was succeeded by Democratic Rep. Michael McMahon, who then lost the seat to Grimm in the Republican wave of 2010. Grimm, a former FBI agent in New York, announced this week that he is determined to seek a third term this fall, despite being hit Monday with a stunning 20-count indictment that charged him with fraud, tax evasion, and other offenses. Grimm says he is innocent.
While the allegations against Grimm could result in significant prison time if he is convicted, Fossella paid his debt to society by serving four days in the Alexandria, Va., Detention Center in April 2009. The jail time was the result of his pleading guilty to drunken driving after his arrest on the night of May 1, 2008.
Even more problematic for the former Catholic high school basketball player and Christian pop musician was the admission of his relationship with Fay, a retired Air Force officer. Apparently Fossella, who was 43 at the time of his arrest, had not told his wife and three children on Staten Island about his second family.
Now 49, Fossella is reportedly still married and works for Park Strategies, a lobbying firm founded by former Republican Sen. Al D'Amato of New York, with offices in New York, Washington, and two other cities. Fossella declined requests for an interview.
Fossella most recently surfaced late last year when he told the Staten Island Advance that some leading Republicans in New York had encouraged him to run against Grimm this year.
"I told them I'm at a good spot in my life and I have no plans to seek public office," Fossella told the Advance in December. However, he added, "That could change tomorrow or next week."
"The door is always open," Fossella said. "If things change down the line, we'll revisit it. But I can't say now that I'm ready to do so."