Cuomo’s attorney accuses Letitia James of biased investigation

ALBANY — The attorney for former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday accused state Attorney General Letitia James of political bias and of improperly interfering with the independent investigation overseen by her office that produced a scathing report that led to Cuomo’s resignation on Aug. 10.

“She had a motive to draw every possible inference against the governor, who was a political rival and who planned to run for a fourth term,” said Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, who characterized the attorney general’s investigation as an “ambush” that destroyed Cuomo’s reputation.

Glavin said their 150-page “application” demands that the attorney general “amend, correct and supplement” the Aug. 3 report that found Cuomo had sexually harassed, touched, groped or behaved inappropriately with multiple women. She noted that report, which she characterized as flawed, may also be relied on by the state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee as it prepares to issue its own report on the sexual harassment allegations leveled against Cuomo by multiple women.

In addition, the report could be used in any future litigation against the governor and may be a guide in the ongoing investigation of the governor by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, she said.

Glavin, who deflected questions about whether Cuomo would seek to re-enter the race for governor next year, also called on James to appoint an “independent reviewer” to examine the governor’s application, which includes hundreds of pages of exhibits.

“It has to be amended, and corrected, it misled the public,” Glavin said. “It is our position that the attorney general cannot be the person to consider our application to amend, correct and supplement the report because the governor’s March 1, 2021 referral was not for the attorney general to oversee an investigation … or to be involved in any investigation of the allegations against the governor.”

Glavin noted that although James hired outside attorneys to lead the investigation, she put her name at the top of the report and made remarks at a recent political event that indicated she was intimately involved in the matter.

Glavin also leveled accusations of bias at state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, asserting that political motives prompted him to send a letter to the attorney general in April calling for an investigation into allegations that Cuomo may have misused state resources to publish a book last year about his handling of the pandemic. That investigation is ongoing and may include an examination of allegations that Cuomo’s administration misused state resources to provide preferential coronavirus testing last year for his relatives and others.

The report that led to Cuomo’s resignation followed a four-month investigation that included interviews with the women who accused Cuomo of conduct ranging from making sexually charged remarks to grooming and groping at least one female executive assistant. The investigation was headed by Joon H. Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District in Manhattan, and Anne L. Clark, who specializes in labor law and sexual harassment cases.

Cuomo has denied kissing a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, and denied groping another female aide, Brittany Commisso, at the Executive Mansion. The latter allegation is the most incendiary to be leveled against Cuomo, who has dismissed his workplace behavior as “playful” and an attempt to “make jokes that I think are funny.”

Other women also came forward and recounted similar encounters with the governor, including a woman who was photographed at the wedding of one of Cuomo’s top aides as the governor held her face and asked to kiss her.

The governor, while in office and battling the allegations, stressed that he “never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”

In the wake of the earliest allegations — before the groping allegations were first reported by the Times Union — Cuomo had authorized state James to commence a “review” of the complaints. But that directive did not authorize the attorney general to conduct a criminal investigation or to subpoena witnesses before a grand jury. That authority would have needed to be given to James under a separate provision in Executive Law.

The groping allegations are the subject of ongoing investigations by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and the Albany County district attorney’s office.

The Times Union reported in March that Cuomo still faced the possibility of a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge or a non-criminal harassment violation.

Glavin again pushed back on Commisso’s groping allegation, seizing on the fact that Commisso could not remember whether the alleged incident occurred in November or December. In a previous interview with the Times Union, Commisso had said the incident may have occurred in late November, but she could not recall the exact date.

On Oct. 11, the Times Union reported that electronic records gathered by investigators for the state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which is expected to issue a report on their investigation that began as an impeachment proceeding, showed Commisso was at the governor’s mansion with Cuomo on Dec. 7.

Glavin on Wednesday did not dispute that the aide was alone with Cuomo on the second floor of the mansion on Dec. 7. But she cast doubt on the fact that roughly four months after what would have been a traumatic encounter she could not pinpoint the exact day it had occurred.

“He didn’t grope Ms. Commisso on that day or on any other day,” Glavin said. 

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