© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Cuomo Attorney: Cuomo Was 'Ambushed' By AG Sexual Harassment Report

In this image taken from video from the Office of the N.Y. Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.
Office of the N.Y. Governor
In this image taken from video from the Office of the N.Y. Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.

Three days after the Attorney General’s devastating report finding New York Governor 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, offered a robust defense of her client in a briefing arranged by the governor's staff.

“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 Letitia 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.

In a response, a spokesman for AG James said in a statement 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.

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 of 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. She said Boylan quit working for the governor after a supervisor confronted her with reports that she was a bad worker, not because she was harassed and that she wanted to leave a toxic workplace, as Boylan claims.

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 recall 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.

But she disputed accounts that the rules were altered so that 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 August 13.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.