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Judge releases Hastings from harassment lawsuit

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NEDRA PICKLER | February 14, 2012 04:32 PM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former aide to Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings should only continue against the Helsinki Commission that he chaired and released the congressman from personal liability in the case.

Winsome Packer served as the commission's staff representative in Vienna and claims Hastings repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances when he visited on business for the commission, which advises on U.S. policy about security, human rights and other issues involving Europe. Last year she sued the commission, Hastings and commission official Fred Turner, who she claimed retaliated against her after she complained about the harassment.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein dismissed the claims against both individuals, although the case will continue against the commission based on Packer's allegations against the two.

Hastings said in a statement he appreciates the ruling and said the case is "ridiculous, bizarre, frivolous, and has wasted – and is still wasting – a whole lot of folks' time and money."