Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been charged with a misdemeanor sex crime over an allegation he forcibly touched a then-aide last December at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, according to criminal complaint filed Thursday in Albany City Court.
The charge against the 63-year-old Democrat comes two months after he resigned in disgrace following a string of sexual harassment accusations by several women who worked with and in his office that were detailed in a bombshell report overseen by Attorney General Letitia James’ office.
The complaint states that on Dec. 7, 2020, the three-term governor “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose forcibly placed his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim,” whose name was redacted in the complaint, “and onto her intimate body part.”
“Specifically, the victim’s left breast for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires,” the complaint says.
A Class A misdemeanor of forcible touching carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
Cuomo was issued a summons to appear in court in Albany on Nov. 17, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said in a press release.
Apple had received a police report in August following a complaint from Cuomo aide Brittany Commisso.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares had requested investigative materials from the team appointed by James. Investigations into other allegations against Cuomo continue by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Westchester District Attorney Miriam Rocah and Acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce Smith, all of whom also sought files from James’ team.
Cuomo Charges ‘Politics’
Earlier this year, Commisso, a former executive assistant in the governor’s office, accused Cuomo of unwanted touching, publicly detailing at least two occasions in which she said that he touched her inappropriately and filed a criminal complaint with the Albany Sheriff’s Office.
In an interview with CBS in August, shortly following the release of James’ report, Commisso said that she was ordered to the governor’s residence last winter, where Cuomo allegedly slipped his hand under her shirt and “cupped” her breast over her bra.
Commisso’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cuomo and his lawyers have denied the allegations and cast aspersions on Commisso’s claims, highlighting as suspect the indication in the attorney general’s report that the alleged incident took place in November.
The report, and Commisso herself, note that the date included in the report commissioned by James’ office is an approximation of when the alleged unwanted touching occurred.
The complaint lists a slew of records that will be considered as evidence, including text messages from Cuomo’s phone, cell phone records, Blackberry PIN messages, and security card swipe records.
James, who was commissioned by Cuomo to hire lawyers to investigate sexual harassment accusations made against him last spring, turned over evidence from her office’s investigation to the Albany County District Attorney at their request.
The Albany County DA David Soares said in a statement that he was “surprised” to learn that a criminal complaint was filed against the former governor and declined to comment further.
Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, again denied the accusations and charged that the complaint by the Albany Sheriff was politically motivated.
“Governor Cuomo has never assaulted anyone, and Sheriff Apple’s motives here are patently improper. Sheriff Apple didn’t even tell the district attorney what he was doing,” she said in a statement.
“This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics,” she added.
James, who is expected to shortly announce a run for governor, has also been accused by Cuomo and his lawyers of using the investigation for political gain, something she has adamantly denied.
“When my office received the referral to investigate allegations that former Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, we proceeded without fear or favor,” James said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The criminal charges against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report.”
Sign up for the
Get THE CITY Scoop
Sign up and get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning
Who’s Running for Attorney General in New York? It’s a Crowded Field.
With New York’s top job up for grabs after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, state elections coming up next year are shaping up as a high-stakes round of musical chairs — and attorney general is a coveted seat.
When Cuomo stepped down as governor, it created a power vacuum not seen in New York since Eliot Spitzer’s resignation from the same job in 2008. After Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul replaced Cuomo, Letitia James, current attorney general, announced she would run for governor. And now the AG race is as crowded as the campaign to fill the Executive Mansion.
As of late-November, eight people, five Democrats and three Republicans, have filed with the state Board of Elections to start campaigning for the state’ top legal job.
Signs are pointing to a run from Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY
Even more are considering running. THE CITY reported that Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is giving serious thought to tossing his hat in the ring. Also reportedly mulling joining the fray are State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and U.S. Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-Long Island) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Hudson Valley).
We’ll keep updating this election guide as the campaign forges ahead. But first, let’s go over some basics.
What is an AG, and what do they do?
The attorney general is the highest legal officer for the state, serving as a top prosecutor but also an advocate for New Yorkers in general.
The AG oversees 1,800 employees, including about 700 lawyers who work on a wide array of cases. Their work can touch on anything from wage theft to consumer protection to investigating dubious charitable groups.
The office also runs specialized task forces, including units to tackle organized crime and Medicaid fraud.
The role also serves as New York’s counsel in state and federal courts and brings lawsuits on behalf of the state, if necessary — such as when then-AG Barbara Underwood sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 2018, or when James sued to dissolve the National Rifle Association earlier this year.
The AG’s office continues to investigate the Trump Foundation, and has since merged its work with a criminal probe of the former president by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who is set to be succeeded Jan. 1 by Alvin Bragg. Whoever takes over from James could very well wind up overseeing that effort.
In theory, the attorney general’s office works independently from the governor or any other department. But the AG still needs a referral, or permission letter, to start certain types of special counsel investigations, as it did when James investigated Cuomo this year and produced the report that spurred his resignation.
To maintain the independence of the office, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Island) introduced a bill in March to do away with that referral requirement.
Who Is Running?
Dan Goldman: He’s a former federal prosecutor who worked under then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York’s Southern District before becoming general counsel to the House Intelligence Committee. There, he led the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. He told the Daily News the crux of the AG’s role is “holding the privileged and powerful accountable.”
Screengrab/Dan Goldman for AG
Shelley Mayer: She’s represented Westchester in the State Senate since 2018 and before that in the Assembly since 2012. Previous to serving in the legislature, she held a number of jobs in government, including as assistant attorney general in the 1980s and 1990s. She told the Westchester Journal News that it’s her “life’s dream” to serve as attorney general.
Democratic State Senator Shelley Mayer.
NY Senate Photo/Flickr
Zephyr Teachout: She’s once again running for AG after losing that race in 2018 running a progressive, anti-corruption-centered campaign. A former gubernatorial candidate, the professor, author and lawyer called being the state attorney general “the best legal job in the country for people’s lawyering,” in a November interview with The New York Times.
Andy Katz/ Shutterstock
Clyde Vanel: He’s an entrepreneur and lawyer who has represented southeastern Queens in the State Assembly since 2017. Before holding office, the Cambria Heights native owned a Lower Manhattan restaurant, ran a trademarking services company and became an aircraft pilot. He has said he’s running to fight banks and lenders who have “refused to work with minority neighborhoods” struggling with widespread foreclosure.
Queens Asssemblymember Clyde Vanel in Albany.
New York State Assembly
Maria Vullo: She served as New York State’s lead financial regulator as the superintendent of the Department of Financial Services from 2016 to 2019. Previous to that, she spent 20 years as a trial litigator. She currently teaches law at Fordham University’s law school.
New York State Department of Financial Services
Michael Henry: He’s a commercial litigator from Queens who declared he would run against James this summer — before she announced her own run for governor. He believes she’s made it “harder for law enforcement to do their jobs,” he told the Daily News, and said she did not do enough to hold Cuomo accountable on nursing home deaths from COVID-19.
Joseph Holland: He’s an attorney, author and real estate developer who briefly served as commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Renewal during the Pataki administration. Holland previously ran for attorney general ahead of the 2018 Republican primary, but ultimately withdrew.
John Sarcone: He’s a litigator from the Hudson Valley who has served as town attorney in Westchester and Orange counties. He also runs his own private practice. Sarcone is running to address “a public safety crisis in our state” and against “defunding the police,” he said at a November campaign launch event.
Sarcone for Attorney General
When does this matter?
You’ll still have some time to mull over all these choices and learn more about the candidates before you vote. The general election will be on Nov. 8, 2022, following a June primary whose exact date is still to be determined.
We’ll be updating this guide as developments merit, and stay in the loop on other election news this cycle by signing up for our Civic Newsletter.
NYPD Brass Springs Ex-Cop After Arrest for Allegedly Chasing Brooklyn Kids With a Gun
A high-ranking NYPD chief ordered cops in a Brooklyn precinct to release a retired officer they had arrested only hours earlier for allegedly menacing three kids with a gun, according to law enforcement and other sources.
The unusual intervention in the arrest of the ex-cop last Wednesday was spearheaded by Community Affairs Bureau Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, who oversees the NYPD’s youth strategy and who formerly served as commander of the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, the neighborhood where the incident happened, the sources said.
An investigation by the Civilian Complaint Review Board is underway and in its early stages, a CCRB spokesperson confirmed.
The children — ages 12, 13 and 14 — said the frightening incident was sparked after the basketball they were dribbling down Saratoga Avenue accidentally hit a security camera in front of a real estate storefront manned by retired cop Kruythoff Forrester.
Attempts to reach Forrester on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The boys said Forrester, who records show also worked in the 73rd Precinct for part of his career before retiring last year, emerged from inside the store and started chasing them, at one point brandishing a silver-and-black gun.
A retired NYPD officer was arrested after allegedly menacing a group of boys outside a real estate business on Saratoga Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY
One boy said he believed he heard the gun fire once, according to his family, while another told THE CITY he thought he heard three shots — but none of them saw Forrester pull the trigger.
NYPD officials say Forrester’s arrest was voided following an investigation, and that he had been found to be the victim of criminal mischief. They say video along the route where he pursued the boys shows he wasn’t carrying a gun in his hand.
They added that none of the boys reported to responding officers that any shots had been fired, and that a gunfire-detection system in the neighborhood didn’t register any shots.
“The individual who was detained is a retired police officer and a legally licensed pistol holder,” said Sgt. Edward Riley, an NYPD spokesperson. “He denied drawing or pointing his weapon during the incident.”
According to the law enforcement and other sources, Forrester was arrested in possession of a gun and was still being detained at the 73rd Precinct when Maddrey — a three-star chief who is one of the highest-ranking uniformed members of the NYPD — showed up and ordered that his arrest be voided.
Maddrey was accompanied by other NYPD members, including Deputy Chief Scott Henderson of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, the law enforcement and other sources said.
Forrester, 53, was sprung shortly afterward, according to the sources, but word of his release didn’t reach the kids’ families until the next day.
“They’re kids. You know how traumatizing it is for you to be running for your life in the street from a grown-ass man because you broke a camera?” said two of the boys’ aunt, Lashawn Jordan.
“And then to say it’s perfectly OK to let the man off because he’s a fellow ex-officer?” she added. “So what is that saying — these kids’ lives don’t matter?”
‘Run, He Has a Gun!’
The night before Thanksgiving, the boys’ families were at home preparing for the next day’s feast as they waited for the youth to head home from playing basketball.
According to one child’s account, the trio was taking their usual route home from the park when one of them tossed a ball in the air. When it accidentally hit the security camera of the business where Forrester works, the kids got scared and bolted.
Eventually, they slowed to a walk. That’s when they heard the Forrester yell out “Yo” behind them, one of the boys told THE CITY.
All three turned around.
“Then I seen the gun,” said the boy — whom THE CITY is not naming because he is a minor.
“Run! Run, he has a gun!” a boy screamed, according to video footage obtained by THE CITY from a nearby security camera.
Two of the kids hid. The third bolted further down the street. That’s when all three say they heard a shot ring out, according to interviews with the families.
“They were terrified,” said Jordan.
When her 12-year-old nephew reached her front door, he was “blue in the face.”
“He was sweating and panting and crying,” Jordan told THE CITY.
“He couldn’t even get the words out of his mouth to say that somebody was shooting at them until I kept shaking him, like, ‘Tell me what’s going on. Just say it. Where is everybody else?’ And he was like ‘A man, a man! They’re shooting at him, they’re running!’”
Just a few blocks away, his brother — who had evaded his alleged pursuer — called 911.
Police later found Forrester coming out of a side entrance to the building that houses the management store, according to the families, and they detained him after questioning him.
Family members said responding officers assured them they would soon be hearing from the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.
Meanwhile, the mother of the two brothers said the kids were “scared to death.”
“Mom, why would anybody shoot at us? We ain’t bad,” the 12-year-old asked his mom, she said.
Promoted by Commissioner
Maddrey was promoted to his three-star position in June 2020 by NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.
His promotion came despite a high-profile incident in 2017 where the NYPD found that Maddrey had “wrongfully impeded an official department investigation,” among other charges.
His punishment was the loss of 45 vacation days that April.
The relatively stiff penalty was prompted by Maddrey’s failure to report that an NYPD subordinate who claimed to be his mistress had pulled a gun on him in a Queens park.
At the time, Maddrey denied an affair and told the New York Daily News that he had wanted to spare the woman from arrest for the sake of her kids.
As head of the Community Affairs Bureau, Maddrey is responsible not just for building a better relationship between the police and communities, but specifically emphasizing on strategies to engage youth in order to keep them away from crime.
The Youth Strategies Division, according to a description posted online, “focuses on the well-being of the city’s young people.”
‘No Justice Here’
The alleged Thanksgiving-eve menacing, and the quick release of the retired cop, has left the two families in Brownsville asking about justice.
“I guess he’s a cop. So I guess they’re taking his side or trying to cover it up. I don’t know, but that’s not right,” said Crystal M., the mom of the 13-year-old. “It’s like there’s no justice here.”
She said her son has been reluctant to walk in the neighborhood since last week.
“My son feels unsafe, he don’t want to go outside,” she said. “I tell him to go to the store to get something. He don’t want to do that. Like, I’d be scared too.”
Jordan said she’s at a loss for what to do with her lifelong instructions to the boys that they should go to the police whenever they find themselves in danger.
“How are my children supposed to believe what I’m saying if I’m telling them that the police are going to protect them when it’s the police who are shooting at them?” she said.
Jordan said her family had done its best to have a normal Thanksgiving the next day, but that it had been a challenge to pretend everything was fine.
“We basically just was grateful that the bullets missed all the boys,” she said, “and we still were able to come together and be thankful for life itself, if nothing more.”
Sign up for the
Get THE CITY Scoop
Sign up and get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning
Andrew Cuomo’s Smear Team: His Brother and Top Advisers, Transcripts Reveal
Over 10,000 pages of interviews, emails and text messages released Monday by state Attorney General Letitia James stemming from her office’s investigation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo detail his inner circle’s actions to deflect accusations of sexual misconduct.
Key links in that circle were employed outside of the governor’s office — most prominently the governor’s brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, revealed in messages to have used his media-world connections in a bid to blunt scrutiny of his older sibling’s actions.
The new materials, from an investigation culminating in an August report, also show current and former staffers mobilizing to discredit Cuomo’s first two public accusers, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett. The troves follow a document drop earlier this month that included the governor’s evasive interview with investigators hired by James’ office, as well as testimony from multiple women who alleged harassment.
Cuomo, who has repeatedly denied the harassment accusations, resigned in August under threat of impeachment from the state Legislature. Last month, he was charged with a misdemeanor sex crime in Albany stemming from an allegation he forcibly touched an aide in the Executive Mansion.
The thousands of pages of testimony, conducted under oath, offer a glimpse into how members of the Cuomo administration and some of his closest advisers crafted a public relations strategy to discredit the women who accused him — and used their extensive connections to try to get ahead of the allegations.
The reams of documents that accompany them are a fraction of the material collected by investigators enlisted by James, who is now running for governor.
Some key takeaways:
In mid-August, following the attorney general’s bombshell report, the younger Cuomo assured his CNN viewers that he “tried to do the right thing” and advised his brother to resign as governor, after The Washington Post reported that the TV journalist joined strategy calls with the governor’s advisers.
“I wasn’t in control of anything,” Chris Cuomo told viewers. “I was there to listen and offer my take. And my advice to my brother was simple and consistent — own what you did, tell people what you’ll try to do to be better, be contrite.”
But materials released Monday show the depth of the younger Cuomo’s involvement — which included drafting statements for his brother to deny the alleged sexual misconduct and offering edits and insights on statements crafted by his senior aides.
In a text exchange between @ChrisCuomo and top Andrew Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, the CNN host asks to “please let me help with the prep” of his older brother’s sexual harassment defense and helps devise a PR strategy. pic.twitter.com/XnQ3W2axWE— Josefa Velásquez (@J__Velasquez) November 29, 2021
“As the situation started to accelerate, my brother asked me to be in the loop,” Chris Cuomo told investigators, the transcript of his interview shows.
He said he started communicating more frequently with his brother’s top adviser, Melissa DeRosa, as former gubernatorial aide Lindsey Boylan went public with allegations of sexual harassment against the governor last winter.
In tweets and in a February Medium post, Boylan also accused Andrew Cuomo of fostering a toxic workplace.
“The general was — I need your help. I’m sorry that you’re getting pulled into this kind of thing. And if you can be available, please be available,” Chris Cuomo recalled to the investigators during the July 15 interview, speaking about his brother.
Chris Cuomo attends a CNN event supporting the American Museum of Natural History, Dec. 9, 2018.
According to DeRosa’s testimony, the governor’s brother would send “a lot of things all a lot of the time.”
“He sends unsolicited advice,” she told investigators.
“Please let me help with the prep,” the younger Cuomo texted DeRosa, the highest unelected official in the state, in early March after Bennett accused the governor of “grooming” her for sex and asking about her love life.
‘How Do I Protect My Family?’
But text messages between the pair also show DeRosa deploying Chris Cuomo and his media-elite connections to shield his big brother.
DeRosa sent requests to the CNN host asking for “intel” on a then-unpublished story by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow, whose exposes had previously uncovered sexual misconduct by media mogul Harvey Weinstein and former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Chris Cuomo responded 10 minutes later, saying that the story was “not ready for tomorrow.”
And while the younger Cuomo testified under oath that he did not reach out to sources to get information about the complainants or do opposition research on them, text messages, documents and other testimony gathered by investigators show the contrary.
The CNN host told investigators that he would reach “sources — other journalists — to see if they had heard of anybody” who was planning on accusing the governor.
On March 4, Chris Cuomo texted DeRosa to tell her that he had a “lead on the wedding girl” — an apparent reference to Anna Ruch, who accused the governor of grabbing her face and making her feel uncomfortable at a wedding they both attended.
Former Andrew Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa testifies in the New York State attorney general’s sexual harassment investigation, July 5, 2021.
Screengrab/New York State Attorney General
Chris Cuomo also sent an email message forwarding documents containing information about Bennett, including tweets, from her time in college to the governor’s advisers, according to the questioning by investigators of Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who worked on Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 campaign.
CNN said in a statement to The Washington Post that the company “will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”
Chris Cuomo told investigators that he was “trying to help my brother through a situation where he has told me he did nothing wrong.”
“And that’s it for me. How do I protect my family? How do I help protect him? I probably should have been thinking more about how I protect myself, which just never occurred to me,” he added.
The investigators’ materials also revealed details about the roles of Smith and two former Cuomo employees in rushing to the then-governor’s defense — and on attack against women who went public.
In text messages to senior advisers and allies, Smith bragged that MSNBC host Katy Tur was using her talking points about Cuomo live on air.
“I’m texting w Katy Tur,” Smith wrote to the group. “Katy is saying my spin live. Like verbatim.”
Smith and the group appraised how the story was moving in a favorable direction after the governor held his first press briefing in March in which he said he was embarrassed and apologetic, but would not resign.
Smith was hesitant for the public to know about her involvement in helping the governor and his team, telling Cuomo’s advisers it would be bad for her “credibility” to answer a reporter’s question.
“It was a big national story, you know, big fire storm and it was not something that I felt like I needed to be in the middle of,” she told investigators.
“There’s a big difference between being in the middle of it and behind the scenes and being in the middle of it in a newspaper. So I do think that’s different,” she added.
Alphonso David, Cuomo’s former counsel who was serving as the head of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, was working behind the scenes with his former colleagues to discredit one of the accusers.
Former Andrew Cuomo lawyer Alphonso David speaks at a 2019 press conference about adoption for LGBGTQ families.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY
David was fired last month for his involvement with the Cuomo response.
The governor’s office “routinely involved him in legal matters after he left” the executive chamber, DeRosa told investigators, and continued to rely on David as of early July, when she was called in to testify, even though he is not paid and has no contract for his legal services.
It’s not uncommon for former executive chamber employees to still be in the Cuomo orbit after they’ve left government: The so-called “Hotel California” in the Cuomo administration relies on a key group of advisers on all sorts of matters. The closed nature of the group runs so deep that DeRosa wouldn’t allow an assistant to set up calls with them.
“I trust no one,” she said in a text exchange.
‘Nobody Ever Really Leaves’
While David said he didn’t typically handle sexual harassment issues in the executive chamber, he did in the case of Boylan, while they were both employed by the administration in 2018.
David told investigators that he maintained a memo documenting Boylan’s personnel issues in a filing cabinet and took copies with him when he left the executive chamber.
Former Andrew Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan testifies in the New York State Attorney General’s sexual harassment investigation.
Screengrab/New York State Attorney General
David also said that he was approached by DeRosa and Cuomo communications adviser Rich Azzopardi to share his copies of the file with them when they were scrambling to counter her accusations.
“I think at the time I said, ‘It should be in Counsel’s Office. It was left there.’ They were making phone calls to people to find out where it could be or where it was,” said David, later adding, “I said, ‘Well, I have a copy of it and I can send it to you because they’re official documents.’”
Dani Lever, Cuomo’s former communications director, was also involved in discussions around strategy, even after she left for a new job at Facebook in late summer 2020.
In December, she messaged Cuomo counsel Linda Lacewell saying, “I still don’t know why we are talking to Gov lol,” and followed up with, “But I’m here for the ride.”
Someone messaged Lever the following February saying, “Nobody ever really leaves.” She responded, “You’re telling me!”
A Kissing ‘Family’
The testimony from some of Cuomo’s most loyal allies offers a glimpse into how the governor’s office operated at the height of his popularity in the limelight of daily COVID-19 briefings.
Younger staffers were often referred to as “the kids” and a select group of top aides refer to themselves as a “family.” The familiarity between employees of the executive chamber trickled into the workplace.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo greets New Yorkers on opening day of 2nd Avenue Subway at 96th Street Station, Jan. 01, 2017.
Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Annabel Walsh, Cuomo’s former director of scheduling, said she was kissed on the lips by Cuomo on several occasions and saw him do the same to other aides, including DeRosa and Stephanie Benton, the former director of the governor’s office. But Walsh also said that they weren’t uncomfortable with the kissing and that she didn’t recall it ever lasting more than two seconds.
But DeRosa said Cuomo had never kissed her on the mouth, nor had she seen him do it to others. And Benton said the governor never kissed her on the lips, but would kiss her on the cheek and forehead in a “parental” way that felt “comforting.”
The then-governor had told investigators that he would be “uncomfortable” testifying under oath saying he had never kissed former aides on the lips.
‘Somehow, We’re in Charge’
Walsh and eight other top aides had a group chat dubbed “Somehow, we’re in charge.”
She and four others also were part of another group text chat called “Mean Girls,” after the movie of the same name.
Lever and DeRosa told investigators they jokingly referred to themselves as such, and said the governor would tell them to stop being “Mean Girls.” Once he called DeRosa “Regina George,” the clique’s ringleader in the film.
In related “Mean Girls” parlance, Lever told Boylan in a series of text messages in 2018 that the governor “likes pushers,” which, she went on to explain, meant a person with “political savvy” who can get someone to a yes from a no without his direction.
After Boylan published her Medium post detailing her experience working in the governor’s office, some of Cuomo’s aides and allies took to a group thread to disparage Boylan.
“She’s younger than me???” DeRosa opined. “Whatever she is doing, she’s not aging well.”
Benton and DeRosa stayed at the Executive Mansion for periods of time during the height of the pandemic.
“What’s with all these women going to the mansion,” Smith texted DeRosa. “Can you just fire every woman in the office.”
Walsh said that on two occasions, she, Benton and Cuomo jumped into the pool at the mansion, albeit fully clothed, she told investigators. Benton said she only remembered one time she and other attendees at a post-session gathering jumped in while dressed.
‘Victim Shame on the Record’
In strategizing public responses, Cuomo’s team looked to the how the camps of other powerful men handled press in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.
In December, David wanted to respond to the Boylan allegation with a positive gesture, and Walsh brought up the letter of support signed by dozens of women who worked with news anchor Tom Brokaw when he was accused of sexual harassment by a former colleague.
“I think that there are MANY, MANY people that would sign on to a letter talking about how incredible he is and how empowered they felt by him etc,” Walsh emailed DeRosa. “I really think that is a much more powerful message that people would be (legally and otherwise) okay signing onto.”
Linda Lacewell and Benton began collecting names of women who worked with Cuomo to possibly sign a supportive letter — which was never publicly released. Nor was the original version of a letter the team had floated, which refuted Boylan’s claims in detail while defending Cuomo.
That same month, reacting to Boylan’s accusations of Cuomo sexually harassing her, Lever texted DeRosa and Azzopardi to refer to what then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s spokespeople said when he was accused of sexual assault during his campaign.
She sent Biden’s deputy campaign manager’s statement from the time that said the then-candidate believed “women have a right to be heard,” but the claim was untrue and the press should review it.
“I think we can victim shame on the record,” Lever had texted the group in December. “This was part of Biden’s response by the way. Biden camp said ‘this absolutely did not happen’ then gave statement.”
Lever defended the idea of disclosing Boylan’s personnel file or releasing information about her employment with the state, she told investigators later.
And advisers to the governor mused about whether a rule that Vice President Mike Pence followed — that he would not dine alone with a woman other than his wife or attend events with alcohol without her — should be applied to the governor, according to DeRosa’s testimony.
Judy Mogul, special counsel to the governor, recommended it “out of his protection,” DeRosa said. “And previously I know that when [Cuomo] was at HUD, he had a very similar policy.”
Sign up for the
Get THE CITY Scoop
Sign up and get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning