‘Governor grabbed my butt’: Hundreds of pages of testimony from Cuomo harassment probe made public

Hundreds of pages of testimony about unwanted kisses, hugs and gropes from the investigation into sexual assault accusations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo were released by the New York attorney general’s office Wednesday.

The transcripts include testimony from Mr. Cuomo and 10 complainants: Charlotte Bennett, Lindsey Boylan, Brittany Commisso, Ana Liss, Virginia Limmiatis, Alyssa McGrath, a woman named “Kaitlin” whose last name was redacted, two unidentified state employees and an unnamed person identified as “Trooper #1.”

One New York state employee told investigators that the first time she met the governor, during an event in September 2019, he tapped her buttocks.

The employee testified that after she and Mr. Cuomo posed for a photo, he “took his hand and double-tapped the area where my butt and my thigh meet, so kind of under my butt cheek.”

She said she told her supervisor, who was also in the photo, about the incident.

“I think I said, you know, the governor grabbed my butt, touched my butt, patted my butt, something where I directly said that there was like an action towards my butt,” she said.

The supervisor, she said, did nothing about it. 

Mr. Cuomo testified that he has never touched a female staffer on the butt.

The former governor, a Democrat, stepped down in August after New York Attorney General Letitia James published the results of an investigation that found he had sexually harassed 11 women, many of whom were his staffers or other state employees. 

The nearly five-month probe launched in March found that Mr. Cuomo had engaged in unwanted kissing, groping and hugging and made inappropriate comments.

Ms. Commisso, a former executive assistant for Mr. Cuomo, filed a complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in August saying he grabbed her breast while they were at the governor’s executive mansion last year. 

As a result, Mr. Cuomo was charged last month with a misdemeanor sex crime complaint. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Ms. James said her office will release all transcripts and exhibits from the investigation on a rolling basis “in an effort to provide full transparency to the people of New York” and because they are also being released by the Albany County district attorney’s office.

Ms. Boylan, a former senior staffer for Mr. Cuomo, testified that he once gave her an unwanted kiss when she was leaving his office.

“I just kept walking because my first thought is oh my God, oh my God, what if someone saw that and they’re going to think that I wanted a kiss from the governor,” said Ms. Boylan. She added that she was “just shocked.”

Mr. Cuomo was asked about the incident and testified that it “did not happen.”

Ms. Boylan also described an incident in 2016, when she was a senior staffer at a holiday party at the governor’s office in Albany. She said Mr. Cuomo’s aide Andrew Ball called her from an unsolicited number and told her Mr. Cuomo wanted her to come to the second floor for a tour.

“I start walking over there underground and I’m pretty afraid because the interaction that I just had, the sequence of events is a very clear predatory situation and I’m very afraid,” Ms. Boylan said.

After the tour, she said, she was “dropped off” at Mr. Cuomo’s office and sent to a conference room. Mr. Cuomo eventually came into the room, she said, and he was smirking while telling her about a cigar box that Bill Clinton gave him.

“It was really creepy because the illusion is very clear to me, cigars, Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky,” she said.

Ms. Boylan said the governor did not do anything untoward, but she kept thinking about what she would do if he had.

When asked, Mr. Cuomo testified that he does not remember being in a conference room with Ms. Boylan, nor does he recall showing her the cigar box.

Ms. Boylan also said Mr. Cuomo told her once that if she were his “aggressive dog,” then “he would mount” her.

Mr. Cuomo denied the accusation and said, “That is a gross and vulgar statement, and I wouldn’t say that to anyone under any circumstance.”

Ms. Boylan said she has been sexually harassed throughout her 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.”

Ms. Bennett, a former aide and policy adviser, said she recalled a time when they were discussing Mr. Cuomo’s hands and “he wouldn’t let it go and kept asking and talking about the size of his hands.”

She said it became a “very uncomfortable interaction” in which he was “trying to get me to admit something sexually.”

Asked whether she thought Mr. Cuomo was trying to draw a comparison to the size of his hands and the size of his genitals, Ms. Bennett said, “Yes, that is absolutely what he was trying to get me to say.”

Mr. Cuomo was asked whether he ever commented or joked about the size of his hands, and he said “no.”

The former staffer also said the governor once told her to sing the song “Danny Boy” in front of him and two fellow staff members. One of them told her Mr. Cuomo’s request was “hazing.” 

Although Mr. Cuomo denied most of the women’s accusations, he acknowledged asking Ms. Bennett to sing the song.

Ms. McGrath, a former aide, testified that Mr. Cuomo often made her feel “awkward” by hugging her and kissing her on the cheek, which she said he also did with other employees.

In his testimony, Mr. Cuomo said he usually did not ask staffers for permission before hugging them and that he “will customarily” kiss people on the cheek if he feels “it’s appropriate.”

Several of those who testified said they were embarrassed by the incidents and worried that they could lose their job if they complained.

His behavior became “very normal,” Ms. McGrath said.

His behavior became very normalized, not that it was acceptable and not that we didn’t feel uncomfortable,” she said. “It just became — he just made it just, like, a part of every day.”

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