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When New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office had substantiated a slew of allegations of sexual harassment against scandal-plagued Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, perhaps the most shocking revelation involved a female state trooper assigned to his protective detail.
In addition to targeting the woman for assignment to him and subsequently sexually harassing her on several occasions, the AG’s probe led by two outside lawyers found, Cuomo tried to play off his interest in the cop as a push for more diversity on his staff.
In other words, the probe suggested, an erstwhile liberal titan who had as recently as last year styled himself a MeToo stalwart was now using another progressive priority—diversity in politics and law enforcement—to try to save his own skin.
The independent investigation into Cuomo found he sexually harassed at least 11 current and former female state staffers in a “hostile” and “unsafe” work environment that repeatedly covered up for his “pattern of inappropriate conduct.” In addition to detailing new incidents of misconduct, the probe offered fresh details about previously reported allegations against Cuomo, including that he groped a current staffer’s breast last November, kissed her on the lips at least once, and touched her inappropriately several times. Her allegations were already being investigated by the Albany Police Department.
But even as the investigation concluded that Cuomo “engaged in unlawful sexual harassment,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office did not reach a conclusion “as to whether the conduct amounts to or should be the subject of criminal prosecution.”
“The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed many women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments,” James said in a Tuesday press conference.
All of the allegations detailed in the report are the stuff of nightmares, and Cuomo has steadfastly denied or tried to explain the incidents away as misunderstandings.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I am 63 years old, I’ve lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am and that’s not who I have ever been,” Cuomo said during a Tuesday briefing. He went on to repeat his axiom that his penchant for allegedly consensual touching is just a harmless personality trait.
But the episode involving the unnamed trooper, as described by investigators, appeared to be uniquely brazen.
Among the acts of sexual misconduct described in the probe were at least one occasion where the trooper said Cuomo ran his hands down her body, issued her a kiss on the cheek in front of a colleague, and made a request she help him find a girlfriend who can “handle pain.”
“I felt...completely violated because to me, like that’s between my chest and my privates,” the trooper told investigators while describing a 2019 incident in which, the report says, Cuomo ran “his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip, while she held a door open for him at an event.”
“But, you know, I’m here to do a job,” she added.
The investigation found that Cuomo took deliberate steps to ensure the trooper was moved onto his Protective Services Unit in the first place, even though she did not have the traditionally required experience for the prestigious role.
The inciting incident: a chance meeting at an event at Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in November 2017.
“Haha they changed the minimum from 3 years to 2. Just for you,” a senior member of the trooper’s team told her in a 2017 email, along with a notice indicating her two-year service on the force was now sufficient for her to join the unit in charge of protecting Cuomo.
The report states that the senior investigator in charge of the trooper’s transfer testified that Cuomo was directly involved in the “decision to hire her” after he said he was impressed with her performance at the bridge event.
The governor’s other stated reason for pushing for the trooper’s involvement in the PSU was that he was “seeking to increase diversity in the PSU, including having more women,” the senior investigator testified.
“When asked about his involvement in Trooper #1’s transfer, the Governor recited several times that he ‘was on constant alert to recruit more women, Blacks, and Asians to the state police detail,’” the report states.
It added that Cuomo said when he testified to investigators that he did not know about the minimum service requirement for the PSU and that he had encouraged two women at the RFK Bridge event to apply to the unit.
But the report found that Cuomo’s testimony was inconsistent with information from the senior investigator, the trooper, and another woman who was at the event.
“Senior Investigator #1 told us that although there was at least one additional woman (who was also a Trooper) present at the RFK Bridge event, he does not remember that Trooper speaking with the Governor,” the report states. “Nor did Senior Investigator #1 recall the Governor or anyone from the Executive Chamber speaking to him about hiring the second woman. To the contrary, Senior Investigator #1 stated that shortly after the event, the second Trooper remarked to him, ‘oh, you recruited [Trooper #1], but not me.’”
After joining the PSU in January 2018, where she remains a current member, the trooper who said she was harassed by Cuomo told investigators she was moved from working at his Mount Kisco residence to his travel team—and sometimes even served as the Governor’s driver.
During her interactions with Cuomo, the trooper told investigators, the Governor was generally “flirtatious” and “creepy”—a behavior trait she did not see him have with her male colleagues. Soon, the trooper said her encounters with Cuomo turned “inappropriate and offensive,” including repeatedly touching her body without her consent, kissing her on the cheek in front of a colleague, and making several demeaning and sexually suggestive comments. She said she never reported these incidents because she was afraid of career ruin.
In August 2019, the trooper said, Cuomo asked her while she was not wearing a dress as she drove him to an event, to which she responded that “because she wears a gun and would not have anywhere to put the gun if she wore a dress.” After Cuomo left the car, the trooper said she received a message from a superior telling her not to repeat what the governor said, a sign she took as an attempt to “silence” her.
“On one occasion in an elevator, the Governor ran his finger down the center of Trooper #1’s back from the top of her neck down the center of her spine, while saying, ‘Hey you,’” the report states.
A few weeks later, in the summer of 2019, the trooper said, Cuomo asked to kiss her in the driveway of his Mount Kisco home.
“I remember just freezing, being—in the back of my head, I’m like, Oh, how do I say no politely, because in my head if I said no, he’s going to take it out on the detail. And now I’m on the bad list,” the trooper testified to investigators, according to the report. “Unsure what to do, she replied, ‘Sure.’ The Governor then proceeded to kiss Trooper #1 on the cheek and said something to the effect of, ‘Oh, I’m not supposed to do that’ or ‘unless that’s against the rules.’”
A male PSU colleague also corroborated the incident to investigators and joked to the trooper “that the Governor had never asked to kiss him,” the report states.
The report added that Cuomo once went so far as to ask the trooper why she would want to get married, before stressing that the commitment “always ends in divorce, and you lose money, and your sex drive goes down."
In another conversation, Cuomo asked the trooper her age, before telling her that she was “too old for me” when she said she was in her late 20s. She tried to deflect the conversation by joking about becoming a matchmaker for Cuomo and asked him for his requirements.
“According to Trooper #1, the Governor responded that for a girlfriend, he was looking for someone who ‘can handle pain,’” the report states.
The allegations levied by the trooper immediately spurred outrage among the law-enforcement community, including the New York State Police Investigators Association, which called Cuomo’s actions “completely unacceptable and utterly disgraceful.”
The trooper’s claims echo accusations from several other former Cuomo aides, including Charlotte Bennett. The five-month investigation into Cuomo, which involved 179 witness interviews, also found that he “routinely” interacted with women in a way they found humiliating and fostered a toxic work environment.
“I have always said my office is a demanding place to work and it is not for everyone. We work really, really hard,” Cuomo responded to the allegations on Tuesday.