Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, a pattern that created a hostile work environment and violated several federal and state laws, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
"The independent investigation found Governor Andrew Cuomo harassed multiple women," James said at a news conference. She said the investigation "has revealed conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government."
The AG’s findings, which were part of a civil independent investigation, do not necessarily mean Cuomo will face criminal charges. When asked if any criminal charges will be laid against the governor, James said her department's investigation was not focused on that. "Our work is concluded and the document is now public and the matter is civil in nature and does not have any criminal consequences,” she said.
One woman who accused Cuomo of groping her breast had already filed a report with Albany police, said Anne Clark, an employment lawyer who co-led the investigation. "Any prosecutors and police departments can look at the evidence and determine if they want to take further action," said Clark.
The investigation’s report comes months after a wave of public allegations of sexual harassment threatened to derail Cuomo’s third term as governor, with most of New York’s top political leaders calling on him to resign. But Cuomo stayed in office with eyes on a fourth term, while insisting he would be vindicated by the independent review he had initially encouraged.
Cuomo has for years tried to position himself as a political leader in the MeToo movement, signing laws intended to limit workplace sexual harassment. And he has insisted on a “zero tolerance” policy for such behavior.
Investigators spoke to 179 individuals — complainants, state troopers, employees, and others who interacted with the governor. They reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence, including texts, pictures, documents and audio recordings. The findings and the 168-page investigative report were made public Tuesday. There were 11 women who made complaints against the governor, nine of whom were current or former state employees. The investigation also found the governor attempted to retaliate against one woman who made complaints.
The woman who filed a police complaint is identified in the AG’s report as Executive Assistant #1. The report found the governor engaged in a "pattern of inappropriate conduct" with the woman since late 2019, including hugs, kisses (on the cheeks and once on the lips), touching and grabbing her butt during hugs and comments about her personal life, including nicknaming her a "mingle mama" and asking if she'd cheat on her husband.
In November 2020, at the governor's mansion, Cuomo allegedly reached under her blouse and groped her breast as he was hugging her. The woman had planned to not tell anyone about the incident but colleagues saw her becoming visibly emotional when the first allegations against the governor became public and Cuomo declared in a press conference in March 2021 that he'd never "touched anyone inappropriately." The woman’s allegation was made public soon after in a story in the Albany Times Union.
Joon Kim, a former federal prosecutor who co-led the investigation, said that evidence found Cuomo had inappropriately touched multiple women without permission — "touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts," as well as making inappropriate sexualized comments.
"Our investigation revealed these were not isolated incidents, they were part of a pattern," said Kim.
One of the most disturbing examples of harassment was from a state trooper, who'd allegedly been hand-picked by the governor for his security detail after they met at an event, despite her not having the requisite experience. The report says that in one incident Cuomo ran "his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip" as she held the door open for him at an event. Another state trooper witnessed the incident.
On a different occasion, the report found the governor ran "his finger down her back, from the top of her neck down her spine to the middle of her back, saying 'hey, you,'." The report also found one incident in which the governor kissed the state trooper on the cheek in front of another trooper, who corroborated her account.
The trooper also reported the governor made multiple sexually-suggestive comments to her, including asking her to find him a girlfriend and that he required someone who "can handle pain."
The attorney general’s investigation into Cuomo’s behavior began in March, after the governor’s office asked for an independent investigation of public allegations of sexual harassment. Cuomo was reportedly interviewed for 11 hours by investigators with the attorney general's office in July, and investigators have spoken with at least some of the women who accused him of sexual harassment.
One of the women who accused him of sexual harassment in March, former aide Charlotte Bennett, is named in the report released Tuesday. Cuomo made numerous inappropriate comments to Bennettt in 2020, including asking if she'd been with older men and telling her he was "lonely" and "needed to be touched." After Bennett reported the governor's actions to his chief of staff, she was moved to another role and no formal investigation was made into her complaints, although the executive chamber instituted its own rule to ensure women were not allowed to be left alone with the governor.
After he spoke with investigators, Cuomo raised questions at a press conference about whether they may be biased against him. "I have concerns as to the independence of the reviewers," he told reporters in late July. "Is this all happening in a political system? Yes, that is undeniable."
Multiple women publicly accused Cuomo in recent months of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, both in the workplace and at public events. The harassment allegations first arose late last year, when former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan tweeted that Cuomo had sexually harassed her "for years." She expounded on that allegation in detail in February, and was soon followed by four other women who had worked for Cuomo. The harassment claims varied from creating a hostile work environment, with Cuomo asking women staffers about their sex lives, to claims of inappropriate touching.
“I did not do what has been alleged, period,” he said on a March call with reporters. “I won’t speculate about people’s possible motives, but I can tell you as a former attorney general who has gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation, and that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision.”
And Cuomo has hung on since, resisting calls for him to resign from top Democrats and keeping a limited public schedule outside of small events surrounded by political allies. He has not explicitly said whether or not he would run for reelection next year, but there has not been any indication yet that he won't — he raised more than $1 million at a fundraiser this summer as he began fundraising again after the harassment scandals.
Cuomo's office has been reprimanded for publicly suggesting that James's inquiry is politically motivated, with the suggestion that she herself is preparing for a campaign for governor.
James said Tuesday that the evidence against Cuomo revealed "a deeply disturbing but clear picture" of his behavior and applauded the women who had come forward.
"More importantly, I believe them," she said, "and I thank them for their bravery."
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