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Top Cuomo Aide Resigns; Accuser Speaks Publicly For The First Time

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, answers questions with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in New York.
Mary Altaffer
Associated Press
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, answers questions with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in New York.

Over the weekend, one of the 11 women who the New York State Attorney General found were sexually harassed by Governor Andrew Cuomo has come forward publicly to detail her accusation that the governor groped her and made other unwanted advances. Additionally, Melissa DeRosa, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aide, has resigned from her role, she told the media Sunday night.

The Albany County Sherriff confirmed that he is investigating a criminal complaint that Cuomo staffer Brittany Commisso filed against the governor. Meanwhile, in a fast moving weekend of news about the embattled governor, Cuomo’s attorney held a briefing and appeared on CNN to defend her client.

DeRosa, who joined Cuomo's administration in 2013, eventually became one of the governor's most trusted confidantes. She wrote in a statement to news organizations that serving the people of New York had been "the greatest honor of my life."

"Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying," DeRosa wrote in her statement. "I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state."

DeRosa often defended Cuomo when he faced public criticism. In March, she told lawmakers that Cuomo's administration didn't turn over nursing home death data to legislators last August because of worries the information would be used against them by President Donald Trump's administration.

Brittany Commisso, known as executive assistant number one in the AG’s report, said the governor sexually assaulted her when she was called to the governor’s mansion last fall to help him fix his phone.

She appeared in an interview conducted jointly with CBS This Morning and the Albany Times Union, where she spoke to CBS’s Jericka Duncan about the criminal complaint she filed Thursday with the Albany County Sherriff.

“Why did you file that criminal complaint with the Sherriff’s office?" Duncan asks in the interview.

“It was the right thing to do,” Commisso answers. “The governor needs to be held accountable.”

Duncan then asks whether being held accountable means seeing the governor charged with a crime.

“What he did to me was a crime,” Commisso answers. “He broke the law.”

The full interview aired on CBS at 7 a.m. on Monday.

Sherriff Craig Apple confirmed at a news conference Saturday that his office has received the criminal complaint. He said he is seeking documents from the Attorney General and working with the Albany County DA to conduct interviews and complete a “comprehensive investigation.”

“I have a young lady who came in who is alleging she was victimized,” Apple said. “And we are going to do everything in our powers to help her.”

Sherriff Apple would not rule out the governor being arrested on misdemeanor charges.

The governor’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, held a briefing late Friday, and appeared on CNN, where she disputed Commisso’s claims, as well as those of the other women. Glavin said the AG and her investigators treated the governor unfairly.

“This was one sided,” Glavin said. “He was ambushed.”

Glavin said Commisso’s account in the report — that after the assault she immediately left the mansion upset — is “false,” because records show she stayed for several hours, and even enjoyed a snack of cheese and crackers. Glavin said Cuomo was “stunned” when the allegation was first reported in the 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 said Lindsay Boylan, another one of the women who the report finds was sexually harassed, is lying.

But, in an interview on CNN Saturday, Glavin conceded that the governor might have run his finger down the spine of a state trooper that he personally recruited for his security detail, but Glavin says the gesture may have been misconstrued.

Glavin also questioned the motives of some of the accusers, and raised questions about whether AG James and her investigators, including former acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, were biased against the governor. She even took issue with Sherriff Apple looking into the criminal complaint, saying because the sheriff is an elected official he might also be politically motivated.

Apple said he did not listen to what the governor’s lawyer said. But, when asked by a reporter whether he expected potential retaliation from Cuomo, the Sherriff said he was not afraid.

“I’m the county Sherriff, I’m not going to be intimidated, I’m not going to be coerced,” he said. “That would not play out well for anybody.”

A spokesman for Attorney General James responded to Glavin’s charges, saying that “to attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.”

Finally, the Assembly Impeachment Inquiry Committee meets later Monday morning. It is expected to discuss a timetable to potentially introduce articles of impeachment against the governor. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wants to expedite the process.

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.
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