Will justice be done?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is allegedly trying to interfere with the state attorney general’s investigation into several women’s claims of sexual harassment, a lawyer for one of the women said Monday.
CNBC News reports Debra Katz, an attorney representing former Cuomo staffer Charlotte Bennett, wrote a letter to Attorney General Letitia James objecting to a report that Cuomo’s office had staff meet with “in-house attorneys” before they were questioned by investigators.
“It is my understanding that these attorneys are also ‘debriefing’ staffers after their interviews with investigators,” wrote 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.”
She charged that Cuomo’s in-house lawyers “will almost certainly deter those with relevant information about” the allegations of sexual harassment made by Bennett and others from coming forward.
Katz demanded that James order Cuomo’s office “to cease this highly improper practice.”
She further said that having Cuomo’s office’s lawyers accompany staff to interviews “will have a chilling effect on potential witnesses or other accusers” who may otherwise cooperate with the probe. These staffers may “fear job-related retaliation if they tell the investigators about the Governor’s sexual harassing behavior and misconduct of those around him.”
According to Katz, several witnesses have already admitted to fear of retaliation should they fail to cooperate with Cuomo’s lawyers.
“We believe this offer of counsel constitutes a deliberate attempt by the Governor to interfere with your office’s investigation,” Katz wrote.
The New York State Attorney General’s Office has hired independent lawyers to investigate claims by Bennett and several other women that Cuomo sexually harassed them with inappropriate touching or comments. The most serious accusation comes from an unidentified current aide to the governor who says Cuomo, 63, reached underneath her blouse and groped her while they were alone in the governor’s mansion last March.
Most recently Alyssa McGrath, a current Cuomo staffer and friend of the women who claims Cuomo groped her, came forward Sunday and accused the governor of “ogling her body, remarking on her looks, and making suggestive comments to her and another woman in his office.”
Governor Cuomo has vigorously denied all the accusations made against him and has insisted that people wait for the investigators’ report to be completed before drawing conclusions from the accusations.
Multiple state Democratic leaders, including a majority of the New York Democratic congressional delegation, have demanded that Cuomo resign.
The governor has steadfastly refused to resign.
State Assembly Democrats have opened an impeachment inquiry against the governor.