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Cuomo Attorney: Governor Was "Ambushed" By AG Sexual Harassment Report

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking March 25, 2020.

Three days after the Attorney General’s 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 says 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 open-minded fact finding in this case.” 

Glavin said Attorney General 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 disputes 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 says 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 says 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 Lindsey Boylan, who says Cuomo sexually harassed her. She says Boylan quit working for the governor after a supervisor confronted her with reports that she was a bad worker, not because, as Boylan claims, 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 recall Cuomo saying that. Glavin says 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 says 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 says the governor wanted to employ the trooper, after meeting her once, because he wanted more diversity on his staff.  

Paul Fishman
Credit WAMC's Ian Pickus

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 says the investigators may have asked the governor’s staff leading questions to try to steer them to a particular conclusion. 

The attorneys say 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.

After Cuomo’s attorneys spoke, the AG’s office released a statement Friday evening. 


“After multiple women made accusations that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed them, the governor, himself, requested that Attorney General James oversee an independent investigation,” said Fabien Levy, press secretary and senior advisor to AG James. “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."

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