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Dropping Gov. Cuomo impeachment 'coward's way out,' accuser Charlotte Bennett says

Charlotte Bennett criticized Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for

Charlotte Bennett criticized Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for "employing a lazy legal argument and offering a poorly reasoned memo" in rejecting a continued pursuit of impeachment after Cuomo leaves office. Credit: Elizabeth Frantz

Charlotte Bennett, one of 11 women who have accused outgoing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment, on Sunday called Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's suspension of the impeachment inquiry into Cuomo the "coward's way out."

In a statement posted on Twitter, Bennett, 25, said Heastie’s decision to discontinue the investigation "sends a very clear message to New Yorkers: the New York State Assembly thinks corruption, sexual harassment/assault and retaliation are acceptable."

Heastie (D-Bronx) announced on Friday that the state assembly would abandon its impeachment inquiry into Cuomo’s conduct in office following the governor’s announced resignation days earlier.

The governor said last Tuesday that he would step down on Aug. 24 amid the public outcry over an investigation by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women, including Bennett.

In a memo, Heastie said legal counsel for the assembly had determined that "the constitution does not authorize the legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office."

"First, the purpose of the impeachment investigation was to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office. The governor’s resignation answers that directive," Heastie said in the memo.

Heastie told Newsday on Friday that an Assembly investigation found "credible evidence" against Cuomo and likely would have resulted in impeachment charges. The Assembly will turn over its evidence to the law enforcement entities investigating the governor, Heastie added.

Several Democratic lawmakers have pushed back against Heastie’s decision to drop impeachment, arguing the assembly’s nascent investigation into Cuomo had produced evidence of inappropriate behavior that should be made available in a public report.

Bennett, who came forward publicly with her allegations in February, has accused the governor of asking her inappropriate questions while she worked for him as an aide, including asking her if she had "ever been with an older man." Cuomo in several public responses has said he never intended his comments or actions to be received as inappropriate.

On Sunday, Bennett accused Heastie of "employing a lazy legal argument and offering a poorly reasoned memo" to take "the coward’s way out."

"After spending millions of taxpayer dollars and issuing lofty statements, he's failed to lift a finger to make clear that New York rejects Cuomo's behavior," Bennett said.

Heastie’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

With Yancey Roy

State & Region