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Assemb. Lopez has pneumonia again, long recovery expected

Brooklyn Assemb. Vito Lopez, the subject of an ethics probe into sexual harassment allegations, has been sidelined by pneumonia since last week and it may take as long as two months for him to recover, his office said in a statement Tuesday.

The once-powerful Brooklyn Democrat's latest illness -- his office said this is the second time he has been stricken with pneumonia in nine months -- could complicate his efforts to defend himself.

"The pneumonia has caused Assemblyman Vito Lopez to be extremely fatigued and seriously mobility limited," his office said. "The recuperation period is anticipated to be 4-8 weeks and possibly longer."

Last week, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the state's ethics panel, submitted a report of its investigation of Lopez's conduct to state legislative ethics committees.

That started a 45-day clock. Lopez can submit evidence or negotiate over possible penalties during that period with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

The attorney representing Lopez was not immediately available for comment.

Lopez, 71, has had cancer since 1993, when he was diagnosed with leukemia, according to media reports. In 2010, the assemblyman, who was first elected in 1984, was stricken with esophageal cancer. His office declined to comment.

Henry Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist, dismissed speculation that Lopez might resign due to his illness. "This guy would not go out without a fight; it's very hard to imagine him finding any excuse to leave -- unless he's tired of being pounded," Sheinkopf said.

Lopez resigned as chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party, but he has resisted calls from Assemb. Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and others to give up his legislative seat. Lopez easily beat little-known Republican opponent Richy Garcia in November to win re-election.

The Lopez scandal also has entangled Silver, who approved a secret settlement payment stemming from a lawsuit filed against Lopez.

The Assembly agreed to pay $135,000 to two former Lopez staffers and their attorneys to settle the case.

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