NEW YORK - New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that an investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo found that he sexually harassed several current and former state employees, many of whom were young women.
The women had accused Cuomo of subjecting them to inappropriate kisses and touching or inappropriate sexual remarks. The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a "hostile work environment" and that it was "rife with fear and intimidation."
People interviewed included complainants, current and former members of the executive chamber, state troopers, additional state employees, and others who interacted regularly with the governor.
"These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, federal and state laws," James said at a press conference on Tuesday. The governor has denied the allegations. Cuomo is also facing an impeachment inquiry in the state Assembly.
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The report also detailed, for the first time, allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed a female state trooper on his security detail. It said that the governor ran his hand or fingers across her stomach and her back, kissed her on the cheek, asked for her help in finding a girlfriend and asked why she didn’t wear a dress.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo responded to the report and, again, denied any allegations of wrongdoing.
"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," he said in a video statement.
A lawyer would have a detailed response to every allegation.
"I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I'm 63 years old, I've lived my entire adult life in public view," Cuomo said. "That is just not who I am."
There were no penalties tied to the report. The accusers were free to seek legal action, added James.
"I believe these 11 women," said James.
In March, James hired two outside lawyers — former acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim and employment discrimination expert Anne Clark — to lead her office's investigation into the allegations.
On at least one occasion, the investigation found, Cuomo and his senior staff worked to retaliate against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing. Cuomo also harassed women outside of government, the investigation found.
James said the investigation wouldn’t have been possible without the "heroic women who came forward."
Cuomo faced multiple allegations last winter that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women who worked with him or who he met at public events. One aide in his office said he groped her breast.
Another, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and "would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs."
After Boylan first made her allegations public in December, the Cuomo administration undercut her story by releasing personnel memos to media outlets revealing that Boylan resigned after she was confronted about complaints she belittled and yelled at her staff.
Boylan has said those records "were leaked to the media in an effort to smear me."
Other aides have said that the Democratic governor asked them unwelcome personal questions about sex and dating. One former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she was open to sex with an older man.
"Some suffered through unwanted touching, and grabbing of their most intimate body parts. Others suffered through repeated offensive, sexually suggestive, or gender-based comments," Joon Kim, one of the lawyers leading the investigation, said at the press conference. "A number of them endured both. None of them welcomed it. And all of them found it disturbing, humiliating, uncomfortable and inappropriate."
Separately, another team of lawyers working for the state Assembly is investigating whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo. James' report is expected to play a critical role in the Assembly's impeachment inquiry. The committee has the power to subpoena documents and witness testimony. It could rely on work done by the attorney general’s team of investigators, or gather its own evidence.
With The Associated Press.