A Sussex County man has filed a $15 million lawsuit against former Bergen County Judge Andrew Napolitano on Monday, alleging the Fox News analyst attempted to rape him and offered legal help in exchange for sexual favors.
James Kruzelnick, a Wantage resident who says he frequently waited on Napolitano at the Mohawk House in Sparta, alleges in his suit that Napolitano sexually assaulted him between 2014 and 2017 and used the promise of legal advice to pressure Kruzelnick into performing sex acts.
Kruzelnick is the second man this month to sue Napolitano alleging sexual assault. Charles Corbishley, a South Carolina resident who stood in Napolitano’s Hackensack court on criminal charges in the 1980s, accused Napolitano of forcing him to perform oral sex in return for a more lenient sentence.
“We see a disturbing pattern emerging of Napolitano sexually assaulting much younger men and then using his power and influence to silence these victims,” Bennitta Joseph, Kruzelnick’s attorney, said in a statement.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is also the senior judicial analyst on Fox News channel, speaks during a meeting of the 200 Club of Sussex County at the Lake Mohawk Country Club in Sparta Tuesday, December 4, 2012. (Photo: Daniel Freel/New Jersey Herald)
Tom Clare, Napolitano’s attorney, called the latest allegations “total fiction.”
“This copycat lawsuit, filed and promoted publicly by the same lawyers representing career criminal Charles Corbishley, is nothing more than a pile-on attempt to smear Judge Napolitano for their own financial gain,” Clare said in a statement.
Kruzelnick alleges that Napolitano developed a strong attraction to him and relentlessly pursued him when Napolitano came to the Mohawk House restaurant on weekends. In December 2014, Napolitano followed Kruzelnick into the restaurant’s bathroom and groped him from behind, telling Kruzelnick, “You are just so hot,” according to the lawsuit.
The main dining room at the Mohawk House in Sparta, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Freel/New Jersey Herald)
Kruzelnick said he pushed Napolitano off him and told him never to touch him like that again, but Napolitano continued to harass him over the next nine months, according to the suit. He alleges Napolitano repeatedly asked him explicit sexual questions and told Kruzelnick what he would like to do to him sexually.
In September 2015, Kruzelnick accepted an invitation to Napolitano’s Sussex County home and was forced to perform a “bizarre sex game” involving spanking, according to the lawsuit. Kruzelnick said he saw Napolitano, who is 20 years older, as a father figure and was initially flattered that Napolitano wanted to spend time with him. According to the suit, Kruzelnick left the house disgusted.
Kruzelnick said he dropped subtle clues that he wasn’t interested in Napolitano romantically, but the former judge still pursued him, allegedly telling Kruzelnick, “I am crazy about you,” “I am thinking about you” and “I would love to see you soon.”
When Kruzelnick experienced gay-bashing at work in November 2015, he turned to Napolitano for legal help, the suit says. Napolitano allegedly boasted about his powerful connections and said, “I have fixed cases and I have gotten people off. I have sent people away.”
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At a meeting with the judge at his house, Kruzelnick said, Napolitano told him: “If you do things for me, I’ll do things for you” and again pressured him into the spanking game, according to the suit. Kruzelnick said he was repulsed but thought Napolitano would withdraw his offer to help and tell his boss if he refused.
Kruzelnick sought Napolitano’s legal advice again in June 2016 for his younger brother, who was involved in a criminal case, according to the complaint. Napolitano agreed to help, the suit says, and told Kruzelnick’s brother he would do everything in his power to assist him, but only “if your brother gives me his full cooperation.”
As the case progressed, Napolitano extracted multiple sexual favors from Kruzelnick while dangling offers of assistance and making veiled threats of harm, according to the suit.
One of the alleged favors involved a threesome with a young man Napolitano identified as a Fox News intern. Kruzelnick said Napolitano invited him and the intern to Napolitano’s home and gave Kruzelnick a drink that made him feel “extremely woozy as if he had been drugged.” When Kruzelnick woke up, he had blurred memories of the sex act, according to the suit.
The last encounter with Napolitano was in August 2017, when Kruzelnick visited the judge’s farm to swim, according to the suit. Kruzelnick alleges Napolitano burst into his room while he was changing into a swimsuit and attempted to rape him. As Kruzelnick tried to escape, Napolitano allegedly tried to force him to perform oral sex.
Kruzelnick said the experience left him shaken and emotionally devastated. He became severely depressed and withdrawn and was fearful and nervous when Napolitano came to the restaurant, the suit says.
When Kruzelnick’s co-worker asked what was wrong, Kruzelnick said Napolitano had been “stalking” him and that if he told the truth about what the former judge had done to him, “no one would believe me because I’m gay.” Kruzelnick said in a court filing last week that he decided to come forward after reading news coverage of Corbishley’s lawsuit.
Napolitano served as a state Superior Court judge in Bergen County from 1987 to 1995 and was the youngest state judge to be granted lifetime tenure. He left the bench for private practice when he was 44 and now works as a senior judicial analyst for Fox News.
Svetlana Shkolnikova covers local news and Superior Court in Morris County for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from criminal trials to local lawsuits and insightful analysis, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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