ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attorneys held a press conference Friday where they challenged the credibility of the bombshell report this week from the New York Attorney General’s office that concluded the governor sexually harassed multiple women, including former and current state employees.
The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a “hostile work environment” and that it was “rife with fear and intimidation.”
People interviewed included complainants, current and former members of the executive chamber, State troopers, additional state employees and others who interacted regularly with the governor. They also reviewed more than 74,000 piece of evidence, including documents, emails, text messages, audio files and pictures.
Attorneys representing the governor, Paul Fishman of Arnold and Porter LLC, Mitra Hormozi of Walden Mocht and Haran LLP and Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC spoke in a virtual briefing Friday afternoon.
“I’m a former federal prosecutor and I know the difference between putting together a case against a target versus doing independent fact finding with an open mind,” Glavin said. “There has been no open minded fact finding in this investigation. This investigation was conducted in a manner to support a predetermined narrative.”
“This is not like an ordinary civil or criminal proceeding,” Fishman said.
Fishman said the governor’s legal team had concerns regarding the report.
“We had concerns that there might be things that were inaccurate, there might be things that were not sufficiently thorough, there were things that might be included of excluded from the report that might be fair or unfair, and we wanted to make sure that the people who were going to be discussed had the opportunity to respond before the report was going to be made public,” Fishman said. “We wanted to make sure that the people who were going to be discussed had the opportunity to respond before the report was going to be made public.”
The attorney said the report was made public before the subjects if the investigation were able to address it.
“That was all problematic because their opportunity to challenge, to rebut, to raise questions did not occur until after the report was public,” Fishman said. “In today’s media world, all of those allegations were out and being reported while people were first flipping the pages.”
Fishman said the report being released in the way it was raises a very “serious” legal issue.
“What matters is that there is a very serious legal issue about whether the attorney general’s office is correct or not, and that serious legal issue should have gotten more consideration in a report that reaches a conclusion about illegality,” Fishman said. “It’s now 76 hours since the attorney general’s press conference and not one of those witnesses and not one of their lawyers has a copy of the transcript, as we understand it, of their own client’s interview.”
“In our legal system, both sides are heard and given access to the evidence,” Glavin said. “But here, instead of acting as independent fact finders, the investigators acted as prosecutors judge and jury.”
Glavin said the governor’s legal team wasn’t given any advance notice about when the report would be released, its findings, or a chance to respond to any errors or inaccuracies. She said that was intentional.
The governor denied that he ever touched anyone inappropriately and made no indication that he would resign, despite mounting calls from local, state, and federal lawmakers — including President Joe Biden — who have voiced support for Cuomo to step down.
Response from the Attorney General’s Office
“After multiple women made accusations that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed them, the governor, himself, requested that Attorney General James oversee an independent investigation. The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.
“There will be a rolling production of interview transcripts made available to the state Assembly, which will be redacted as needed.
“There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”
Watch the full press conference
Gov. Cuomo denies AG’s sexual harassment report: ‘That is not who I am’
If he doesn’t resign, it’s increasingly looking like he could be impeached and removed from office — something that hasn’t happened to the state’s governor in nearly 108 years.
A majority of members of the state Assembly, the legislative body that has the power to start impeachment proceedings, have already said they favor removing Cuomo if he won’t resign.
If the Legislature goes ahead with an impeachment, it will follow procedures that have some parallels — and some important differences — to the process the U.S. Congress uses for impeaching presidents.
Earlier Friday, the woman who accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her breast at the governor’s state residence filed a criminal complaint against him, the Albany County Sheriff’s office said Friday.
The complaint, filed Thursday with the sheriff’s office, is the first known instance where a woman has made an official report with a law enforcement agency over alleged misconduct by Cuomo.
“We take every complaint seriously,” Albany County Undersheriff William Rice said Friday.
It’s possible the Democratic governor could be arrested if investigators or the county district attorney determine he committed a crime, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told the New York Post.
“The end result could either be it sounds substantiated and an arrest is made and it would be up to the DA to prosecute the arrest,” he told the newspaper, which was the first to report on the complaint. “Just because of who it is we are not going to rush it or delay it,” Apple said.
Apple didn’t immediately return a request for comment, but his office confirmed the report was filed.
The Cuomo aide who filed the report has accused him of reaching under her shirt and fondling her when they were alone together at the Executive Mansion last year. The woman also told investigators with the attorney general’s office that Cuomo once rubbed her rear end while they were posing together for a photo.
Glavin said the woman’s claims are not credible.
“This woman’s story, which is stated as fact in that report, is false,” Glavin said. “The documentary evidence does not support what she said. What is disturbing to me is that the two investigators did not show that evidence to you. They ignored it. Ask them, why?”
The Albany County district attorney would not confirm that they received a complaint, saying they had no plans to release any information because “this is an ongoing matter that is under review,” spokesperson Cecilia Walsh said in an email.
Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately. His lawyers have acknowledged that Cuomo and the woman met together on the day of the alleged encounter, but said he never groped her.
Calls for Cuomo’s resignation or impeachment soared this week after an independent investigation overseen by the state attorney general’s office concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers.
The attorney general’s report describes a series of times Cuomo allegedly acted inappropriately with the aide described as Executive Assistant #1, culminating with the groping encounter at the mansion on Nov. 16, 2020.
Cuomo pulled her in for a hug as she prepared to leave the governor’s office. Told that “you’re going to get us in trouble,” Cuomo replied, “I don’t care,” and slammed the door shut. He slid his hand up her blouse, and grabbed her breast over her bra, according to the report.
“I have to tell you, it was — at the moment, I was in such shock that I could just tell you that I just remember looking down seeing his hand, seeing the top of my bra,” she told investigators.
She pulled away from Cuomo and said, “You’re crazy.”
The woman had initially planned to take the harassment claims “to the grave.”
“(A)ny time he touched me, I felt like it was inappropriate. He was my boss, let alone the Governor of the State of New York, so I definitely felt he abused his power and definitely knew that he had this presence about him, very intimidating, no one ever told him that he was wrong nor were you told to do so. He definitely knew what he was doing was inappropriate,” she testified.
Cuomo has adamantly denied touching her breasts, saying “I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing.”
Prosecutors in several New York counties have said they are interested in investigating claims of inappropriate touching by Cuomo, but all had said they needed the women involved in the allegations to make a formal report.
The Albany Police Department, the primary law enforcement agency for the city, had been informed of the woman’s allegations regarding the encounter at the mansion several months ago and had spoken to her lawyer, but didn’t open an investigation at the time because she didn’t make a report.
The criminal investigation comes as lawmakers were moving toward a likely impeachment proceeding over the allegations.
Lawyers working for the state Assembly sent a letter to Cuomo Thursday giving him until Aug. 13 to respond to the allegations against him or provide documents to bolster his defense.
The state Assembly’s judiciary committee plans to meet Monday to discuss the possibility of impeachment proceedings. Nearly two-thirds of the legislative body have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he won’t resign.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.