The chief of employees to former Liberal occasion MP Craig Kelly has advised a court docket he hugged and kissed younger feminine employees within the citizens workplace as a result of he was “attempting to make it a household setting”.
Francesco “Frank” Zumbo, 56, has pleaded not responsible to twenty fees, together with sexual touching and indecent assault, associated to accusations made by 5 ladies between 2014 and 2020.
The long-running trial, which started in June final yr, has heard proof from a number of feminine employees who alleged Zumbo groped them, sexually assaulted them and demanded shows of affection. The court docket has additionally heard a number of hours of covertly recorded conversations between Zumbo and the ladies.
Zumbo has beforehand mentioned that he recurrently hugged and kissed the feminine employees, who he known as “sisters”, due to his Italian heritage and that as a result of it was his regular means of greeting individuals.
Below cross examination for a second day, Zumbo was requested about his interactions with an intern who started within the workplace when she was 14, after Zumbo provided her a job at a college operate.
She stopped working in Kelly’s workplace when she was 17. She has alleged that on her second final day, Zumbo ran his hand up her leg to her thigh and kissed her on the cheek whereas she was alone with him in a gathering in Kelly’s workplace.
She has additionally alleged Zumbo approached her whereas she was seated at a desk,kissing her on the again of her head and working his hand over her again.
Zumbo initially denied each the kiss and the touching. Below cross-examination on Tuesday he conceded he had kissed her on the highest of the top as she left the assembly in Kelly’s workplace “as a result of she was simply so unhappy”.
Zumbo mentioned he had simply advised her there was no extra work for her cellphone canvassing as a result of “the world had gone mad throughout Covid”, and there was “hostility” towards Kelly (a outstanding vaccine skeptic).
A number of younger ladies have given proof that Zumbo would rub himself towards them, ask them out and berate them once they complained about his bodily approaches. In a single case, a lady alleged he unzipped his pants and took out his penis whereas speaking to her late at evening in a park. Zumbo denies this incident passed off.
Zumbo advised the court docket that within the case of the then 14-year-old he had confined himself to “fist bumps” and “aspect hugs” together with her.
He solely absolutely embraced and kissed younger ladies over 18 as a result of he thought of that they had been adults and will consent.
Zumbo was then directed to a transcript of a phone intercept of a cellphone name he had with the 17-year-old about two weeks after she left.
The younger lady was recorded referring to the alleged kiss within the name and mentioned: “I don’t know many individuals that get hugged by their bosses, get kissed by their bosses.”
She additionally referred to telling him beforehand she didn’t wish to be hugged.
“At this time limit you had been in your late 40s and she or he was 17, you had been her supervisor, however you gave her a spontaneous hug?” prosecutor Shaun Croner requested.
“I used to be a good friend,” Zumbo mentioned. “This age discrimination I confronted … This inference that I handled them like this as a result of I used to be an older man – I handled them as equals,” he mentioned.
Zumbo also denied that he had hugged and kissed another young woman over 18 on the lips without her consent. He denied telling her he loved her during an incident that she says took place in the office.
Zumbo told the court the woman, who was a law student, had become increasingly reliant on him to help her with her essays, and that he had ultimately hoped to help her into politics.
But he said he had “serious concerns” that she would make false allegations against him of inappropriate behaviour.
This was ultimately what had happened, he said.
“I thought they were ganging up on me. The red flags increased. The office was a mess, it was very toxic,” he said.
The woman made a number of recordings on her phone of her interactions with Zumbo.
In one that took place seven months after Zumbo said he became concerned about false allegations, he was recorded as saying: “Pray for the day we can be closer. I want to get closer to you. I just want a bit of you in my heart and I hope for a little bit of Frank in your heart.”
“Wasn’t this a declaration of love?” the prosecutor asked.
“This is all buttressed and bookended by Christian values,” Zumbo replied.
The prosecution and defence agreed to make final submissions in writing. Magistrate Gareth Christofi said he intended to return his verdict in late October.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org