Cuomo accuser’s lawyer alleges Cuomo ‘interference’ in NY AG’s probe
A lawyer for one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s (D) sexual harassment accusers alleged Monday that the governor’s office is interfering in the state attorney general’s independent investigation into various women’s claims against him.
In a letter to New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), the lawyer for former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett referenced a recent report “that the Executive Chamber is providing staffers with in-house attorneys to meet with them in advance of their investigatory interviews […] and to attend those interviews with them” and objected to the reported conduct.
“It is my understanding that these attorneys are also ‘debriefing’ staffers after their interviews with investigators,” wrote lawyer Debra Katz.
“This is highly improper and we object in the strongest possible terms to this obvious interference with what you have stated would be a ‘thorough and independent’ investigation,” Katz continued in her three-page letter.
Furthermore, Katz wrote to James that the three-term governor’s move “will have a chilling effect on potential witnesses or other accusers” who wish to participate in the investigation but who “fear job-related retaliation if they tell the investigators about the Governor’s sexual harassing behavior and misconduct of those around him.”
“We urge to issue a directive to the Governor to cease this highly improper practice,” she added.
Started earlier this month, the investigation is being carried out by outside lawyers headed by former acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim and longtime employment lawyer Anne Clark.
“We believe this offer of counsel constitutes a deliberate attempt by the Governor to interfere with your office’s investigation,” Katz also wrote.
Katz also urged James to “issue a public statement” denying a report that her office had ordered the Executive Chamber to conduct a “parallel” probe into claims that he groped an unidentified female aide in the Executive Mansion late last year.
Just last week, a current aide to Cuomo, Alyssa McGrath, publicly accused the governor of attempting to cover up the alleged groping incident by asking that accuser “specifically not to tell me” about it.
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The 25-year-old Bennett has accused Cuomo of inquiring about her sex life, such as if she had ever slept with an older man, which gave her the impression that the governor wanted to start a sexual relationship with her. Cuomo has apologized, alleging he never meant to say anything offensive and “never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”
In an interview with CBS News earlier this month, Bennett didn’t accept Cuomo’s apology. “It’s not an issue of my feelings […] It’s an issue of his actions,” Bennett said.
“The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me,” she added.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.