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Cuomo attorney: My client was 'ambushed' by AG's sexual harassment report

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Office of the Governor

Three days after the attorney general’s devastating report finding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke state and federal laws by sexually harassing 11 women, the governor’s private attorney responded. Lawyer Rita Glavin said her client was “ambushed” and his accusers lied.

Glavin, a former federal prosecutor, in a briefing arranged by the governor’s staff, offered a robust defense of her client.

“I know the difference between putting a case together against a target, versus doing independent fact finding, with an open mind,” Glavin said. “And there has been no independent fact finding, in this case.”

Glavin, said Attorney General Leticia James and her investigators acted as prosecutors, judge and jury, and failed to follow the traditions of providing an advance draft of the report to the accused, or any of the transcripts of the 179 people interviewed, so that they would have a chance to quickly respond.

Glavin disputed the account of the Cuomo staffer known in the report as Executive Assistant Number One, who has filed a criminal complaint saying the governor groped her while she assisted him with a task at the governor’s mansion in November 2020.

Glavin said Executive Assistant Number One’s account that she left the mansion, upset, directly after the assault is “false” because records show the aide stayed for several hours and even enjoyed snacks served by a mansion domestic servant. She said her client was “stunned” when the allegation was first reported in the Albany Times Union in March.

“He is 63 years old, he has spent 40 years in public life,” Glavin said, “and for him to all of a sudden be accused of a sexual assault of an executive assistant that he doesn’t really know doesn’t pass muster.”

Glavin also disputed accounts by Lindsay Boylan, who said Cuomo sexually harassed her. Glavin said Boylan quit working for the governor after a supervisor confronted her with reports that she was a bad worker, not because, as Boylan claimed, she was harassed and that she wanted to leave a toxic workplace.

Boylan’s then-boss, former Empire State Development Chair Howard Zemsky, initially said he did not witness the governor inviting Boylan to play strip poker during a 2017 airplane ride. Zemsky later told the AG’s investigators that he did, after all recalled Cuomo saying that. Glavin said Zemsky changed his story because Boylan threatened him.

Glavin did not address the report’s finding that Cuomo inappropriately touched a female state trooper on his security detail. According to the report, he ran his finger down the trooper’s spine while riding in an elevator, touched her stomach and hip without her permission, and asked her why she did not wear a dress. Glavin said the governor will address those allegations himself.

“I can’t give you a timeline, but I know he wants to do it soon,” she said.

She disputed accounts that the rules were altered so the trooper, who did not have enough seniority to qualify for the security detail job, could be hired. Glavin said the governor wanted to employ the trooper, after meeting her once, because he wanted more diversity on his staff.

Paul Fishman, who is representing the governor’s office, which includes Cuomo’s top aides, also complained about the lack of advance notice of the report by AG James, and said the investigators may have asked the governor’s staff leading questions to try to steer them to a particular conclusion.

The attorneys said they hope to have an opportunity to better tell their side of the story, when they submit documents to the Assembly Impeachment Inquiry, which are due Aug. 13.

In a written response, a spokesman for James said that “to attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women”.

“There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence,” said AG spokesman Fabien Levy. “Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate."

Levy said the interview transcripts of the witnesses will be given to the Assembly Impeachment Inquiry.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.