ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – A top aide to state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was charged Wednesday with raping an unidentified, 22-year-old female state Assembly employee.

During an appearance in Albany City Court, innocent pleas were entered on behalf of Silver counsel Michael Boxley to one count each of first- and third-degree rape. Those charges carry possible prison sentences of up to 25 years and four years, respectively.

Boxley, after a five-minute court appearance before Judge William Carter, was released on $25,000 bail pending further proceedings on June 23. An order of protection was issued, barring him from having any contact with the woman.

“No crime was committed here,” said Boxley’s lawyer, E. Stewart Jones of Albany, before the arraignment. Afterward, Boxley was whisked away from the court in Jones’ BMW.

Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, issued a one-paragraph statement.

“I am advised that certain allegations of criminal conduct have been interposed against my counsel, J. Michael Boxley,” the Silver statement said. “It is inappropriate for me to comment about this matter, other than to say that I have faith in our criminal justice system.”

Boxley was not suspended from his $130,754-a-year job, said Silver spokesman Bryan Franke.

Boxley, 43, was led from his state Capitol office, hands cuffed behind his back, by state and city police, accompanied by Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Boxley, a Georgetown University Law School graduate, said nothing as he was escorted away.

Albany Det. James Miller said the female Assembly employee had gone to a downtown Albany sports bar, Jillian’s, on Monday night where she met other colleagues, including Boxley.

The woman told police Boxley eventually gave her a ride home then raped her early Tuesday morning inside her Albany apartment, Miller said. Police got involved after the woman, who has worked in the Assembly for about a year, went to a hospital Wednesday morning.

Clyne said authorities were looking into the possibility that something was slipped into the woman’s drink to render her helpless.

“She expressed to the defendant that she did not wish to have sexual intercourse and Mr. Boxley persisted,” the district attorney said.

Clyne said the victim was “physically helpless and unable to consent.”

The arrest marks the second time in two years that Boxley has faced allegations of sexual impropriety.

In March 2001, Assembly officials announced they had closed an inquiry into an alleged sexual assault by Silver’s counsel. Boxley had denied the allegation through his lawyer.

A brief statement issued at the time, released at the request of Boxley and the woman who had accused him, said they “have not been able to reconcile their differences.”

Nonetheless, the March 22 statement said, “They have both resolved to move on with their professional and personal lives and have agreed that the investigation should be terminated.”

The woman’s complaint stated that Boxley “physically compelled me to engage in sexual relations” at his Albany apartment on Jan. 29, 2001, after the two had met at an Albany restaurant.

At the time, the woman worked for state Assemblyman Patrick Manning, a Dutchess County Republican.

No criminal charges were ever filed in the earlier case. Miller said the current case involves a different woman.

“Rape is one of the most heinous and violent crimes that can be done,” Manning said Wednesday after Boxley’s arrest. “I am just saddened that it ever had to get this far. I still stand by my former staffers’ claim and hope the wheels of justice work this out.”

Silver’s terse statement Wednesday was a far cry from the one he issued two years ago when the earlier allegations first surfaced. At that point, Silver said he had the “utmost personal confidence” in his counsel.

“He is a man of integrity and of the highest character, and I am certain when all the facts are known, Michael Boxley will be completely exonerated,” Silver had said in 2001.

AP Writer Marc Humbert contributed to this report from Albany.

AP-ES-06-11-03 1811EDT

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