The Cuomo administration has retained legal counsel after weeks of defense following accusations of its mishandling of nursing-home related data and the news of an ongoing federal investigation.
Elkan Abramowitz confirmed his hiring by the Cuomo administration to represent it in the nursing home probe. The white collar criminal defense lawyer may be most recognizable for previously representing New York figures like Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein.
Abramowitz previously represented Cuomo’s office in a federal investigation into his 2014 decision to shutdown a state anti-corruption commission.
Abramowitz will represent the Executive Chamber, which is made up of the governor as well as his closest aides. His firm's online bio says Abramowitz "has built his career as a trial lawyer representing prestigious clients fallen into high stakes personal and professional crises both in and outside the courtroom."
The Cuomo administration took heavy criticism at the end of January following a scathing report from Attorney General Letitia James saying that the state may have undercounted COVID-related nursing home deaths by thousands, and suggesting that Cuomo's policies on returning COVID patients to nursing homes may have exacerbated the problem.
The administration has said that 13,453 New York nursing home residents had died of COVID-19 within or outside their facilities, up from the previously closed 8,500 nursing home deaths within those facilities.
Two weeks later comments emerged by a top aide to Cuomo, who allegedly told lawmakers the state "froze" on releasing data about COVID deaths in nursing homes because it feared the data would be used for a possible probe by Trump's Department of Justice.
“That played a very large role into this,” said secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa, adding that the administration had asked legislative leaders whether it could “pause on getting back to everybody until we get through this period and we know what’s what with the DOJ.”
Sources tell News 4 that the FBI and the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office have opened a probe into how the Cuomo administration handled nursing home data.
The investigation was reported shortly after Democratic state Assemblyman Ron Kim accused the governor of threatening him over his criticism of his handling of nursing home deaths.
The governor has blamed a “toxic political environment,” and “disinformation” for much of the criticism surrounding his administration’s handling of the issue.