Line by line: Key findings of Cuomo’s sexual harassment report

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — A report made public by New York Attorney General Letitia James Tuesday accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing a number of women, including current and former state employees, in violation of both federal and state law.

Gov. Cuomo denied the accusations in a video released Tuesday.

The 165-page report is the culmination of a nearly five-month investigation carried out by a pair of attorneys who spoke with 179 people and reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence.

It highlights the testimony of nine former and current state employees, and two women who did not work for the state. Their stories, which span nearly 100 pages in the attorney general’s report, are summarized below:

Executive Assistant No. 1

According to the report, the woman labeled “Executive Assistant #1” works in the Executive Chamber with Gov. Cuomo, and has worked at the Executive Mansion on weekends. She has at various times been responsible for managing his phone calls, taking dictation, drafting and editing documents and other similar administrative duties.

The report describes Cuomo’s behavior as increasing in “familiarity and intimacy” over the course of Executive Assistant No. 1’s employment. In the beginning, the report claims this started with the governor commenting about the woman’s potential relationships and reading her social media posts.

The Governor’s comments became increasingly suggestive, including one in or around late 2019 or early 2020, when the Governor said to Executive Assistant #1 something to the effect of, “If you were single, the things I would do to you.”

Attorney General’s report

Executive Assistant No. 1 also testified that Cuomo touched her on a number of occasions, including intentionally on her “butt and the breast.” She said the governor kissed her on the cheek at a 2019 holiday party, and “almost pushed his hand along [her] butt” during a private tour of the Executive Mansion. She testified that the governor once asked to take a selfie with her, then “moved his hand to grab her butt cheek and began to rub it.”

She testified that on one occasion, Cuomo slid his hand up her blouse, “cupp[ing her] breast” over her bra. She said she did not push the governor away or tell anyone about the incident out of fear of losing her job or even being arrested if she were to slap him.

“To touch a woman’s breast who I hardly know, in the Mansion, with 10 staff around, with my family in the Mansion, to say ‘I don’t care who sees us.’ . . . I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Executive Assistant No. 1 described a time she said the governor quickly turned his head to kiss her on the lips during a hug, and the increasingly familiar nature of the hugs she said Cuomo would request “almost every time” before she left the Mansion.

I knew I could feel him pushing my body against his and definitely making sure that he could feel my breasts up against his body. And was doing it in a way that I felt was obviously uncomfortable for me and he was maybe trying to get some sort of personal satisfaction from it.

Executive Assistant No. 1

Gov. Cuomo denied these claims, telling investigators he “would go along” with tight hugs that Executive Assistant No. 1 initiated because he did not “want to make anyone feel awkward about anything.”

The attorney general’s investigation determined Executive Assistant No. 1 to be credible “both in demeanor and in the substance of her allegations.” Her testimony was corroborated by at least two others who testified, and the governor’s denials “lacked persuasiveness, were devoid of detail, and were inconsistent with many witnesses’ observations.”

New York State Trooper No. 1

The woman labeled “Trooper #1” is a member of the New York State Troopers unit tasked with protecting the governor, the Protective Services Unit. Witnesses testified that her assignment to that unit was in part facilitated by the governor after he met her briefly at an event.

At the time of that event, troopers could not be assigned to the PSU until they had served with the State Troopers for a minimum of three years. The attorney general’s investigation determined that requirement was changed from three years to two years specifically so Trooper No. 1 could be assigned to the unit at the direct behest of “a high-level staff member within the Executive Chamber.”

Trooper No. 1 worked at Cuomo’s residence in Mount Kisco from January 2018 until April 2019, when she was moved to the governor’s travel team. There, she frequently served as Cuomo’s driver.

Trooper No. 1 testified that the governor acted “flirtatious” and “creepy” toward her, and not toward the other troopers on the detail.

Trooper #1’s testimony made clear that, although the Governor’s conduct made her uncomfortable, she did not feel she could safely report or rebuff the conduct because, based on her experience and discussions with others in the PSU, she feared retaliation and believed her career success hinged on whether the Governor liked her.

Attorney General’s report

She said Cuomo made suggestive comments to her about touring the Executive Mansion, and asked her why she didn’t wear a dress while she drove him to one event.

Trooper No. 1 testified that she shared these comments with a coworker one time, and was then warned by a superior that she should not repeat conversations that occurred in the governor’s car. The governor, she says, eventually said to her, “don’t tell anyone about our conversations.”

According to Trooper No. 1, Gov. Cuomo ran his finger down the center of her spine, saying, “hey you,” while they were on an elevator. On another occasion, she said the governor asked if he could kiss her. She testified that she said “sure,” out of fear of being placed “on the bad list,” at which point he kissed her on the cheek. She said she took a friend’s advice and told the governor she was sick the next time he asked to kiss her.

Trooper No. 1 also testified that Gov. Cuomo ran the palm of his hand across her stomach on Sept. 23, 2019, as she held a door open for him. Her account of the event was corroborated by others in the investigation.

Charlotte Bennett

Charlotte Bennett was a briefer for Gov. Cuomo who began working as an executive assistant to the governor in May of 2019, when she was promoted to senior briefer. That role gave her “an unusual level of access” to the governor.

Bennett testified that Cuomo asked her about the length of her previous relationships, and whether she “honored her commitments,” in May of 2019. That same day, he asked her to memorize the lyrics to “Danny Boy,” then asked her to sing the song with Cuomo’s aide Melissa DeRosa and another person in the room. DeRosa, she said, called it “hazing.”

Bennett said the governor asked her on multiple occasions about the size of his hands, which she took as an attempt to get her to talk about his genitals. The governor denied this and the “Danny Boy” accusation in his own testimony.

Bennett testified that on Jan. 19, 2020, she was sent to the Executive Mansion pool house to drop off a speech for the governor. She said Cuomo was there, and asked her to “tell [him] something.”

“Ms. Bennett disclosed to the Governor that she had been sexually assaulted in college, that she had a difficult experience reporting the assault, and that the experience motivated her to work in politics,” the report states.

Bennett said Cuomo at that point asked her a series of questions about the details of the assault, before saying “well, some people have it much worse.”

This account is corroborated by text messages sent at the time.

“Had a really long convo w gov today,” Bennett texted her mother. “Talked about career etc . . . 2 hours. Told him about SMART … He responded so well. Really impressed. He had a lot to say and was very emotional and serious but also asked a lot of questions.”

Cuomo testified that this was the first substantial interaction he had with Bennett that he could remember. He said in his recollection, she provided the details of the assault unprompted.

Bennett said in May of 2020, she was discussing with the governor a speech she was giving at her alma mater about sexual assault. She said Cuomo pointed at her and said, “[Y]ou were raped, you were raped, you were raped and abused and assaulted.” She felt this was a test and tried to change the subject by asking the governor about the pandemic. He said he was stressed, “and that he wanted to find a lady and drive off on his motorcycle into the mountains with her.”

Said, ‘you were raped. You were raped and abused. You were raped and abused and assaulted’ maybe 17 times in a row and wouldn’t stop. . . . The way he was repeating ‘you were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie. It was like he was testing me.”

Text message from Charlotte Bennett to Staffer #2 in May, 2020

The governor testified that his advice to Bennett on that day was to say, “I was raped at this school, but then I was violated a second time by the school when they victimized me a second time by denying my victimization.”

Bennett testified that on June 5, 2020, Gov. Cuomo told her she looked like the alien from the movie ‘Predator’ with her mask on, then said, “if I were investigated for sexual harassment, I would have to say I told her she looked like a monster.”

She said later that day, the governor asked her how long it had been since she had hugged someone. He also asked if she had ever been with older men, and if she thought age mattered in relationships. Bennett said the governor told her she had trouble with monogamy because of her past as a sexual assault survivor, telling her she required “control.” This was not something Bennett said she ever told the governor.

I was scared and I was uncomfortable, but I also was acutely aware that I did not want him to get mad. I know him, I’ve seen his temper, I’ve heard it, I’ve worked with him for a year now, and I was trying my best to get through the conversation, and I was really like focused almost just on the question he was asking me, because I was — otherwise I would have been like really freaking out.

Charlotte Bennett

Bennett said she reported the governor’s conduct on June 10, 2020. She said she was asked no follow up questions. After saying she did not wish to work with the governor anymore, she was transferred to a role in the health policy team. She soon went on medical leave and quit her job a month later, saying “she had ‘lost her confidence,’ she was ‘teary [and] anxious’ and ultimately ‘hated the fact . . . everything had to be about the Governor.'”

The attorney general’s report found Bennett to be credible, with extensive documentation in the form of text messages sent at the time of the events described. Gov. Cuomo also admitted to making many of the comments Bennett cited, though it found his explanations for those comments and conversations “unpersuasive.”

Lindsey Boylan

Lindsey Boylan was a Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor. Before that, she was Chief of Staff to Howard Zemsky, the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of ESD.

She testified that the governor made comments about her appearance and attractiveness regularly, and began to casually touch her on her back, waist and legs.

Zemsky testified that around this time, he told Boylan he thought the Governor had a “crush” on her. He asked her whether she wanted him to “get involved or try to make a change” in Cuomo’s behavior toward her. She told him she would “handle it.”

Boylan testified that at the 2016 holiday party, Gov. Cuomo saw her from across the room. A staff member then called her and told her the governor wanted to give her a tour of his office area on the second floor of the Capitol. She agreed to go, but testified that she felt scared to be in a “very clear predatory situation.”

Boylan said Cuomo showed her around his office, highlighting a cigar box he said was a gift from Bill Clinton. She took that to be a reference to the affair which led to Clinton’s impeachment.

I’ve been sexually harassed throughout my career, but not in a way where the whole environment was set up to feed the predator and this and every interaction I had with the Governor and the culture felt like it was all to feed the predator.

Lindsey Boylan

According to Boylan’s testimony, the governor told her later that month that she looked like a woman he previously dated. She said he told her they could be sisters, “except you’re the better looking sister.”

Cuomo testified that he may have said they looked like sisters, but he would not have said she was better looking, “because he does not feel comfortable comparing the attractiveness of two women.”

Boylan testified that around October of 2017, she sat with the governor and his First Deputy Press Secretary on a flight back from an event in Western New York. She said he suggested playing strip poker on that flight. The governor denied making the comment.

Boylan said on another occasion, at the Executive Mansion, the governor’s dog began to scratch her. She said Cuomo said “if I was the dog, I’d mount you too.” The governor denied making that comment as well.

Boylan testified that near the end of her time in the Executive Chamber, Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a one-on-one meeting in his office.

Boylan resigned on Sept. 26, 2018, as tensions grew between her and members of the governor’s senior staff.

The attorney general’s investigation found most of Boylan’s accusations to be “essentially uncontested.”

Alyssa McGrath

Alyssa McGrath has been an executive assistant in the Executive Chamber since May of 2018. She has assisted Gov. Cuomo with phone calls and other tasks on weekends at the Executive Mansion since December of that year.

McGrath testified that in 2019, she was at the Executive Mansion with Cuomo when he asked if she spoke Italian. When she said no, he said a phrase in Italian. She asked her parents, who are fluent Italian speakers, and they told her the governor called her beautiful. She testified she was surprised to discover he’d said that on what was one of her first times assisting the governor at the Executive Mansion by herself,.

She said Cuomo has spoken to her in Italian multiple times since then, though she has not understood it.

McGrath testified that during one of her first times working on a dictation assignment with the governor, she bent over her desk to write when she realized Cuomo had not spoken “for an unusual amount of time.” When she looked up, she said she noticed he was staring down into her blouse. The governor, she said, asked a question about the necklace hanging “in the area of her chest,” which she took as confirmation that he had been staring.

Gov. Cuomo testified it would be impossible to see down McGrath’s shirt from across his desk, but the report found at least one other witness who testified about the governor looking down an executive assistant’s shirt and commenting about a necklace.

McGrath said Cuomo asked Executive Assistant No. 1 why she stopped wearing a wedding ring, wanting specific details about her separation from her husband. She said the governor also asked her whether she planned on mingling with men on a trip to Florida with Executive Assistant No. 1, calling them “mingle mamas” for a day.

Ana Liss

Ana Liss worked in the Executive Chamber as an Empire State Fellow from September 2013 to September 2015. She testified that during much of that time, she “came to feel that the Governor and his senior staff valued her for her appearance rather than her capabilities.”

Liss said while the governor was prone to outbursts toward men in his office, he was flirtatious toward women.

She testified that Cuomo kissed and touched her a number of times, both in the office and at social events. She said in May of 2014, at an event celebrating the budget passage, he kissed her on the cheek and put his hand around her waist. A photographer took a picture of that occasion.

Liss testified that Cuomo kissed her hand, asked her if she had a boyfriend, and kissed her cheek on at least one other occasion. She said she felt rebuffing the governor “could result in being ostracized or fired.”

Liss also said the governor addressed her as “sweetheart” or “darling” instead of using her name, which she considered to be demeaning. She said Cuomo never spoke to her about work.

Gov. Cuomo testified that he did not remember Liss.

Kaitlin

Kaitlin, who has not gone public with her last name, was an employee of a lobbying firm in 2016, when she attended a fundraiser for the governor. She testified that when she went to shake Cuomo’s hand after the event, he pulled her into a dance pose. Photographs of this event corroborate her testimony.

Nine days after that event, Kaitlin was invited to interview for a job in the Executive Chamber at Cuomo’s request. She said she hadn’t applied for the job or shared her contact information with any member of the Executive Chamber at the event.

Testimony from others, along with messages sent by the governor’s senior staff members, indicates Cuomo himself requested they locate Kaitlin’s contact information after that event.

Kaitlin testified that she went to the job interview, though she “felt the opportunity had been made available to her ‘because of what [she] looked like,’ and she was therefore anxious that she might be subjected to conduct she deemed unprofessional and undesirable.”

Kaitlin said once she accepted the job, she was given very little direction from anyone in the Executive Chamber. She testified that the governor told her to soak up information like a “sponge.” She said the governor and many on his staff called her “sponge” from then on, which she found to be “embarrassing … condescending [and] demeaning.”

Kaitlin also testified that Gov. Cuomo regularly commented on her makeup and appearance, once saying she “looked like a lumberjack” because she wore a black and red button down and a black skirt.

The report describes another occasion, when Kaitlin said the governor called her into his office to help him search for car parts on eBay. She testified that as she stood at Cuomo’s desk to use his computer, he sat “directly behind” her “backside.” She testified that she was anxious to have Gov. Cuomo behind her while she wore a skirt and heels.

The governor testified that he “had to look at the screen to tell her what to click.”

Kaitlin eventually left the Executive Chamber for a role at another state agency. A senior member of that agency told her she had been “pushed onto” the agency by the Executive Chamber.

Kaitlin testified that when the possibility of working with the governor again as a member of the new agency was raised, she cried and asked not to interact with Cuomo. She said she only returned to the Executive Chamber’s New York City office a few times after that, on one occasion becoming so physically distressed, her supervisor noticed and asked what was wrong. She then told her supervisor about the eBay search and the comments she said the governor made about her appearance.

The report found Kaitlin’s testimony to be credible, with corroborating evidence including an audio recording and accounts from her colleagues.

State Entity Employee No. 1

State Entity Employee No. 1 testified that in September of 2019, Gov. Cuomo touched her butt during a work event. She said after the governor’s speech that Saturday, he grabbed her arm and asked for a photograph. She and her supervisor posed with Cuomo, who stood between the two.

State Entity Employee No. 1 testified that while they posed for the picture, Cuomo “double tapped the area where [her] butt and [her] thigh meet,” then slid his hand up to “grab the area between [her] butt and [her] thigh.”

She testified that she believed the governor’s actions were intentional, and she immediately said as much to her supervisor. She said her supervisor did not respond, so she repeated herself. When he once again did not respond, she stopped bringing it up.

I felt deflated and I felt disrespected and I felt much like smaller and almost younger than I actually am because kind of the funny part of it all is I was making this project happen. So we were there because, you know, the work that I had been doing and have continued to do. . . so it was just very, yeah, a moment of like, disempowerment.

State Entity Employee No. 1

State Entity Employee No. 1 sent messages to her siblings and mother and spoke to her friends about what happened. She also wrote down her account of the incident and emailed it to herself for documentation purposes. She then brought it up with her supervisor again, who she said asked her about the governor’s intent.

State Entity Employee No. 1 went to human resources at her office and asked “hypothetical questions” about what to do if an external leader “inappropriately touched someone.” The HR employee advised her to report the incident. She testified that she did not report it at the time, fearing personal and professional repercussions.

State Entity Employee No. 2

State Entity Employee No. 2 is a doctor and former director at the New York State Department of Health. She performed a live demonstration of a COVID-19 nasal swab on Gov. Cuomo during a televised press conference on March 17, 2020.

State Entity Employee No. 2 testified that before the press conference, she practiced the swab with the governor. She said she told him he should be seated for the swab so she would be able to reach his nose. She said Cuomo told her he would stand because it looked better, pointed to her heeled boots, and said something like, “You will be fine with those on.”

She testified that the governor asked her to avoid going “so deep that [she] hit [his] brain.” She said she’d be “gentle but accurate,” at which point Cuomo said “Gentle but accurate, [I’ve] heard that before.” She said she changed the subject because she thought the governor’s joke seemed sexual, and she “just wanted to move on… and do [her] work.”

During the live press conference, State Entity Employee No. 2 wore full personal protective equipment with a face shield and gown. When she approached Gov. Cuomo for the swab, he said, “Nice to see you, Doctor — you make that gown look good.” This comment was broadcast live online and on television.

State Entity Employee No. 2 testified that she was shocked the governor would say that on TV, and that she worried the comment would detract from the public health value of the swab demonstration. She also stood with a security guard after the event so the press could not question her about the comment.

I felt that in my situation it was very, very brief. I did not have typical interactions with the Governor and I felt I had a lot of professional opportunities otherwise. I felt that in my professional standing I should share these facts, whatever they are, in order to support if there are any other women[,] and I can’t say there are or not, who are saying they have been put in an uncomfortable position[,] or if there is any sexual harassment, that you have the facts that you might need.

State Entity Employee No. 2

The attorney general’s report found State Entity Employee No. 2 to be unquestionably credible, considering the comment the governor made was recorded on camera.

Virginia Limmiatis

Virginia Limmiatis attended an event at which the governor gave a speech in May of 2017. She wore a shirt with the name of her employer printed across her chest to the event.

Limmiatis testified that when she went to shake Gov. Cuomo’s hand, he pressed the fingers of his right hand on each letter of the company’s name, sliding his fingers across her chest and saying, “[company], I know you.” She said the governor then leaned in, pressed his cheek against her cheek, and said something like, “I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder.”

Limmiatis testified that there was no bug on her shoulder, but Cuomo brushed his hand between her shoulder and breast anyway. She said the governor understood he had behaved inappropriately by touching her chest, and lied about the spider “to create a cover story.”

Another person at the event testified that Limmiatis told him about what happened. He said she “made an impression on [him] because of how upset Ms. Limmiatis looked and acted.”

I was there as a professional to do my work. The Governor turned a sincere gesture of simply extending my hand as an expression of gratitude for the State’s partnership into a moment of profound shame and humiliation . . . . He did not respect me as a professional and a contributor to the project.

Virginia Limmiatis

Anna Ruch

Anna Ruch attended the wedding of a senior aide to Governor Cuomo on Sept. 14, 2019. The governor officiated the wedding at a restaurant in New York City.

Ruch testified that she thanked the governor for saying nice things about her friends at the wedding. She said he shook her hand, then put his hand on her back, touching bare skin along the cutout in her dress. Ruch said she immediately grabbed Cuomo’s wrist and moved it away.

Ruch testified that the governor said, “wow, you’re aggressive,” cupped her face in his hands, and said, “can I kiss you?” She said she became distraught and uncomfortable and tried to move away. The governor kissed her cheek.

One of Ruch’s friends took pictures of the encounter. They show Gov. Cuomo with Ruch’s face in his hands as she twists away from him.

Ruch testified that “she was appalled and angry that the Governor so comfortably, swiftly, and publicly treated her the way he did.” She said she tried to find Cuomo later in the wedding to tell him he had upset her, but she couldn’t find him.

Ruch’s testimony was corroborated by photographs, witnesses, and people she told in the short time following the event.

Attorney General’s full report

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