Home General News Craig Kelly’s staffer ‘grabbed my thigh,’ told court

Craig Kelly’s staffer ‘grabbed my thigh,’ told court

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

Former MP Craig Kelly’s office manager promised career development and mentorship to young female staffers but instead used his “power and control” to allegedly sexually touch them, a court has heard.

On Wednesday, Francesco Zumbo, 55, faced the local court of Downing Center in Sydney, accused by five women of 20 charges, including sexual touching and indecent assault between 2014 and 2020.

Mr. Zumbo pleaded not guilty to all charges. His attorney Carolyn Davenport SC said he tried to create a collegial atmosphere, but there was never any sexual contact.Craig Kelly's staffer 'grabbed my thigh,' told court

But prosecutor Shaun Croner said Zumbo invited young women “into a world of his own design.”

“He had the control and power, and what he was doing was intentionally touching them in a sexualized way, but also in a way that it could seem completely out of context, harmless.”

The first complainant admitted on Wednesday that she was 22 when she was introduced to Mr. Zumbo by a friend after graduating from the University of NSW.

She met him at a Max Brenner cafe on campus for career tips, but the conversation “took a bit of an odd turn,” she said.

After asking her to speak in her native language, Mr. Zumbo said something like, “That’s very sexy. If you keep talking like that, I’ll fall in love with you.”

Zumbo described her as “the whole package with a few rough edges” and offered her a job on the spot at Mr. Kelly’s Electoral Office in Sutherland Shire.

The woman stopped after a day.

It started carpooling in the middle of winter when she saw Mr. Zumbo kiss and hug one of the other young workers as he greeted her.

That evening, Mr. Zumbo drove the same girls home after work, and she said he hugged and kissed another young co-worker before becoming “temperamental and aggressive.”

“Why are you floating? Why were you looking at me and… [her]† We had a special moment,” she recalls Mr. Zumbo saying before apologizing.

“You came across as a Labor spy in the office today,” Zumbo told the woman before driving away.

The inappropriate comments continued all night, she said.

At one point, he parked at South Juniors in Kingsford, asked if she wanted to sleep with someone to stop a terrorist attack, told her to delete personal recordings from her phone, and accused her of being an ASIO spy.

He then drove them to a pizzeria in Kirribilli and said, “The way you talk is really sexy”.

“No wonder all guys want to get in your pants; maybe having a friend on benefits will solve all your problems.”

“That’s when he grabbed my thigh,” she said, shaking it vigorously.

Ultimately, they took away pizza and sat down in his ‘favorite spot’ overlooking Sydney harbor.

“I was cold…I was having convulsions and shaking physically, and he said, ‘I like to keep people out in the cold, which makes them puke more’.”

He then drove them to an abandoned parking lot in Little Bay and asked if she was “bisexual…or a lezzo”, saying he feared she would break his heart.

When he finally dropped her off at home at 10 p.m., the woman told the court that she went inside and collapsed against her mother.

She denied statements from attorney-at-law Timothy Kent that she wouldn’t have gotten into Mr. Zumbo’s car after eating pizza if she was scared and that he didn’t touch her leg for more than a second.

The special hearing continues.

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