The woman accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her says the governor's unwanted hugs turned to even more unwanted kissing, but she felt trapped in his heavily guarded Executive Mansion.
"These were not hugs that he would give his mother or, you know, his brother, these were hugs with the intention of getting some personal sexual satisfaction out of, and they started to be hugs with kisses on the cheek, and then there was at one point a hug and then we he went to go kiss me on the cheek he quickly turned his head and he kissed me on the lips.
"I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything this whole time. People don't understand that this is the governor of the state of New York. There are troopers that are outside of the mansion. They're not there to protect me. They're there to protect him. I felt as though if I did something to insult him, especially to insult him in his own home, it wasn't going to be him that's going to get fired or in trouble."
Commisso said Cuomo groped her for the first time on Dec. 31, 2019, when the governor suggested the two take a selfie together.
“He was to my left. I was on the right. With my right hand, I took the selfie. I then felt while taking the selfie, his hand go down my back onto my butt, and he started rubbing it. Not sliding it. Not, you know, quickly brushing over it — rubbing my butt.”
Commisso, who began working in the governor’s office in 2017, said this made her so nervous that her hands began to shake, making it difficult for her to even take the picture.
“I was embarrassed,” she said.
The scathing claims from Brittany Commisso come just hours after Cuomo's top aide resigned, and mere minutes before the state Assembly's judiciary committee met to advance impeachment proceedings against the embattled three-term governor.
In an interview Monday morning, Commisso told "CBS This Morning" and the Times Union that "the governor needs to be held accountable.
"Maybe to him, that he thought this was normal, but to me, and the other women that he did this to, it was not normal. It was not welcomed, and it was certainly not consensual."
The governor has steadfastly denied the accusations of sexual harassment against him, and in particular has maintained, both himself and via his lawyers, that the behavior alleged by Commisso never happened. In an interview with the attorney general's investigators, he said, “I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing" to a woman he hardly knew, with multiple staff members around.
Before Sunday, Commisso was only known to the public from a bombshell attorney general's report as "Executive Assistant #1."
She filed a criminal complaint last week after the damning report dropped by New York Attorney General Letitia James, conducted by special outside investigators, concluded Cuomo had criminally sexually harassed 11 women.
The complaint is the first known instance where a woman has made an official report with a law enforcement agency over alleged misconduct by Cuomo. She may not stand alone for long. Lindsey Boylan, the woman Cuomo is accused of retaliating against after she was first to come forward with claims of harassment, says she plans to file a complaint as well.
"I intend to sue the Governor and others who were involved in these efforts to smear me," Boylan wrote in a Medium post Monday.
Investigators said in the attorney general's report that Cuomo’s team sent Boylan’s personnel records to reporters within hours of her December tweet alleging sexual harassment. They also said the governor’s circle circulated a letter that “attacked” Boylan’s alleged work conduct and theorized she was funded by far-right Republicans.
At least five county district attorneys are now known to be conducting criminal investigations of the governor over behavior from the AG's report.
'Executive Assistant #1'
Commisso has also accused Cuomo of reaching under her shirt and fondling her when they were alone in a room at the Executive Mansion last year.
After shutting the door, “He came back to me and that’s when he put his hand up my blouse "and cupped my breast over my bra," she said. "I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself, 'Oh, my God. This is happening.'"
One of the reasons the independent investigators say that the woman didn’t want to report the conduct was because of what she saw happen to Lindsey Boylan after she went public with her allegations.
Commisso told investigators that the efforts to discredit Boylan – which she says she personally witnessed – were conducted by Linda Lacewell (Superintendent of Financial Services), Melissa DeRosa, Rich Azzopardi and Beth Garvey.
“I was afraid that if I had to come forward and revealed my name, that the governor and his enablers, I like to call them, would viciously attack me, would smear my name, as I had seen and heard them do before to people,” said Commisso, now 32. She said she also wanted to protect her daughter, but now feels speaking out shows her that “she has a voice.”
“I never want her to be afraid to speak,” Commisso said. “I never want her to be afraid of any person in power, a man or a woman.”
The investigators wrote that they found Executive Assistant #1 “to be credible both in demeanor and in the substance of her allegations.”
And, they wrote, “Governor Cuomo denied a number of Executive Assistant #1’s allegations, but we found that his denials lacked persuasiveness, were devoid of detail, and were inconsistent with many witnesses’ observations of his behavior toward Executive Assistant #1 and other women in the Executive Chamber.”
The governor has denied all of the allegations involving Executive Assistant #1, saying last week “that never happened” and that he welcomed a potential civil suit from the woman because “I welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and a jury, because this just did not happen.”
In a news conference Friday afternoon, the legal team for the governor specifically denied the claims now at issue in Albany County, one of five with an ongoing probe.
"That woman's story is false. Documentary evidence does not report what she said," said Cuomo's personal attorney, Rita Glavin. "This does not reflect what the executive assistant told the Times-Union. Why did this report ignore evidence and not want to tell you ... Two investigators did not show evidence to you, they ignored it. Ask them why."
Commisso met with investigators at the Albany County sheriff's office for about an hour last week to file the formal report and is expected to meet with them again soon for a lengthier interview, officials said Saturday.
After that, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said his office would decide whether there was sufficient evidence to move forward with any potential charges against the governor. It wasn't immediately clear when that lengthier interview would happen, nor has the sheriff's office interviewed any other people tied to the case.
Should the case warrant a criminal charge, the sheriff said it would probably involve a "misdemeanor, possibly a couple." If it comes down to that, Apple said his office would "absolutely" execute an arrest.
"We are in the infant stages of the investigation," Apple said as he acknowledged the "high-profile" nature of the case. "We have lots of fact-finding to do and a lot of interviews and I won’t rush it because of who he is and I won’t delay it because of who he is. It would be totally premature for me to comment on any of that."
Glavin said on CNN Saturday evening that she would like to see the criminal complaint and said of the sheriff: “He hasn't done any investigation and he's drawn a conclusion.”
The state Assembly’s judiciary committee plans to meet Monday to discuss the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Cuomo. Nearly two-thirds of the legislative body have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he won’t resign.