A tenth woman has come forward with allegations that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo behaved inappropriately toward her. The woman, from the Rochester suburb of Greece, says Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her without her consent when he was touring her home after a flood.
Sherry Vill is being represented by veteran women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. Vill says when Cuomo visited her, her husband and son in her home after it had been damaged by a Lake Ontario flood in May 2017, he grabbed her hand, and later kissed her on both cheeks, something she did not give him permission to do. She says it made her uncomfortable in her own home.
“He leaned over and kissed my cheek,” Vill said. “I was holding my small dog in my arms. And I thought he was going to pet my dog. But instead, he wedged his face between the dog and mine and kissed me on the cheek in what I felt was a highly sexual manner. I wasn’t expecting that at all. He said ‘That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks’.”
Vill says she is also Italian, and while family members kiss, strangers do not. She says she knows the difference between an “innocent gesture and a sexual one.”
Vill says as the governor left her home, he told her she was “beautiful,” and says she felt Cuomo was “coming on” to her.
She says what happened next was even more unsettling. She says a few days later, a member of the governor’s staff contacted her and left a voicemail asking her to attend an event. She felt uncomfortable with that and did not attend.
“Notably she did not say my husband and I or my family and I, only specifically me,” Vill said. “I purposely did not respond to the invitation. I felt very uneasy about the call.”
Vill says she’s been “afraid” to speak out until now, when other women have come forward.
Vill and Allred displayed photographs, taken from a video shot by her son, that show the governor kissing Vill. They also displayed a letter sent a few days after the incident from Cuomo on official stationery thanking Vill for the visit, and an accompanying photo taken by the governor’s office depicting Cuomo grasping Vill’s hand.
Allred says Vill is not pursuing sexual charges or criminal charges against the governor, though she says a case could be made for it.
“Technically if a person touches another person with the intent to touch that person it’s a battery, civil, potentially criminal,” Allred said. “We’re not focused on the criminal aspect at all today.”
Allred says for now, Vill wants to present her allegations to New York Attorney General Tish James, who is investigating sexual harassment accusations against the governor by multiple women. Most of the state’s top elected officials have called on Cuomo to resign. Vill says she wants the attorney general to complete and report the results of her investigation first.
Cuomo and aides have said hugging and kissing is the governor’s customary form of greeting people, and Cuomo has said he never meant to offend anyone with his actions.
Allred says she is currently only representing Vill but would not comment on whether she has been contacted by other women with similar allegations. She says she finds the multiple allegations very concerning.
“I take it very seriously when there a number of women who come forward against the same powerful man,” she said.