Independent Firm Will Probe Schwarzenegger Charges

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) has dropped a plan to conduct his own investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against him, a spokesman said.

"Upon consulting with legal counsel and advisers, the governor has concluded that given the political nature of the allegations, an investigation would only be ridiculed by his political opponents and provide little opportunity to put this issue to rest," Rob Stutzman said Monday.

After the October election but before Schwarzenegger took office, Stutzman announced that the governor-elect had already decided to engage an investigative firm to look into the allegations.

During the campaign, 16 women came forward to allege that Schwarzenegger groped or sexually harassed them between 1975 and 2000. Schwarzenegger acknowledged and apologized for having "behaved badly" toward women in the past, but said he wouldn't discuss the allegations until after he was elected.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer (search) called for a full investigation, but because the statute of limitations (search) had expired on the claims, no criminal investigation is possible and no probe has been launched, spokesman Nathan Barankin said.

The governor "remains sincerely sorry to anyone he may have offended, but there comes a time to move on and focus on the critical issues facing the state," Stutzman said.

The announcement that Schwarzenegger would not pursue his own investigation came hours after a woman who claimed she was groped a decade ago sued the governor for libel (search).

Rhonda Miller's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that Schwarzenegger's campaign staff falsely suggested in an e-mail that she was a convicted felon.

Miller made the allegations in a news conference Oct. 7 - the day before the recall election.

Within hours, the Schwarzenegger campaign sent an e-mail to reporters directing them to the Los Angeles Superior Court Web site and instructing them to type in the name "Rhonda Miller." That produced court records for another woman named Rhonda Miller, whose history included prostitution and disorderly conduct.

Some media reports identified Miller as the woman with the criminal history, although their birth dates differed.

Attorney Paul Hoffman, who is representing Miller, said the Schwarzenegger campaign deliberately misled reporters in order to raise doubts about her allegations until the election was over.

"They destroyed her life for one day's advantage," Hoffman said.

Schwarzenegger attorney Marty Singer called the libel suit groundless and said he expected it to be dismissed. He said the e-mail about Miller's background could have referred not to a criminal background, but rather to statements from others who worked on movie sets with her and Schwarzenegger.

The e-mail "does not state specifically that this is the same woman who was making the claim the night before the election," Singer said.