Trooper No. 1 testifies: Cuomo's overtures came off as 'creepy'
ALBANY — A state trooper says she just froze and felt violated when former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asked to kiss her and in separate incidents touched her back and her belly while she was part of his special protection unit, according to testimony released by Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday.
The woman identified as "Trooper No. 1" said the governor, who was in his early 60s at the time, started flirting almost immediately when she joined his security detail.
She said he once offered to give her a private tour of the Executive Mansion in Albany, suggesting, "Why don’t you come upstairs?"
"It came off as creepy," the trooper said.
Her testimony was part of thousands of pages of testimony from eight women and two unidentified state workers in State Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into sexual harassment accusations against the former governor.
The women said they felt uncomfortable, frightened and powerless. They cited frequent flirting, kisses on the cheek and hugs, which sometimes led to unwanted contact, including tight hugs, kissing on the lips and veiled come-ons.
Trooper No. 1 cited two incidents that she said became more that flirting.
At the governor’s Manhattan office in 2018, she said she was in the elevator with him headed to his 34th-floor office.
"He runs his finger down the center of … my back on my spine, basically from the top of my neck, to basically midway down with his pointer finger," she recalled. He then said: ’Hey, you.’ So I turned around and said, 'Oh, hey, how are you, sir?' And that was basically it. I kind of was like freaked out.
On Sept. 23, 2019, at Belmont Park for a New York Islanders event, she said he did it again as he passed by as she held a door open for him.
"He takes his left hand and basically, like thumb facing down, I felt the palm of his hand in the center of my stomach on my belly button and like pushes back toward my right hip, where my gun is," she said.
"I felt like completely violated because to me that’s between my chest and my privates, which, you know, if he was a little bit north or a little bit south, it's not good," the trooper said.
She said Cuomo also asked her if he could kiss her on at least two occasions when both were working.
"I remember just freezing," the trooper said, and tried to figure out how to "politely" decline because "he’s going to take it out on the detail — and now I’m on the bad list."
The second time he asked for a kiss, she declined because she said she was sick.
"He looked at me almost in disgust that I had denied him," the trooper said.
The testimony provided more detail to some of the public accusations of sexual harassment against Cuomo. He has denied sexually harassing anyone.
Brittany Commisso is now at the center of a misdemeanor criminal complaint accusing Cuomo of forcible touching in an incident at the Executive Mansion.
She said she was called to the governor’s office in the mansion around Nov. 16, 2020, but she couldn’t remember the exact date. The door hadn’t even closed on his office when he moved toward her, she said.
"He really pulled me in and I remember his hand just sliding right up my blouse," she told investigators. "I just remember stepping back and saying like, ‘Governor, the door … You’re going to get us in trouble because that is not what I was here for and that is not what I do.’"
"He said, ‘I don’t care’ and he went over and slammed the door," Commisso said.
In his testimony to investigators, Cuomo said, "That never happened. Let's just — you know, at one point there has to be a little reality. To touch a woman's breast who I hardly know, in the mansion, with ten staff around, with my family in the mansion, to say, ‘I don't care who sees us.’"
Commisso also testified Cuomo kissed her on the lips.
"He would occasionally go to kiss me on the cheek, and he would quickly turn his head and catch me on the lips," Commisso stated.
"His hugs definitely got closer and tighter to the point where I know I could feel him pushing my body against his and definitely making sure that he could feel my breasts against his body."
Cuomo has said his "way" of showing support for young staffers and other women — hugs, kisses on the cheek and personal banter — have been misinterpreted.
But Commisso said his intent with her was clear.
"I know that I was going to get in trouble and not him," she said of what she said were unwanted advances. "So I took it."
Former executive assistant Charlotte Bennett, who also has accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, explained in texts to her parents how her interaction with Cuomo went from something she bragged about to something she dreaded.
Bennett texted her parents that Cuomo invited her to "lift together in his mansion gym" in Albany.
"He started asking what I lift etc. How many pushups I can do," Bennett said in an Aug. 9, 2019, text to her parents.
"He said I will triple whatever you lift," Bennett texted. "He was like do you have a bf I said no he said well that’s why. You could beat them all up."
On Oct. 14, 2019, Bennett texted to her parents: "Did pushups for him today. He freaked out."
In a later text to her parents, Bennett said Cuomo criticized her bun hairstyle more than once. "He only spoke to me twice and both times it was to tell me he didn’t like how I did my hair," she texted.
"Genuinely quitting as soon as possible it’s taking everything in me to deal with this calmly," she texted. "I spent too long dealing with abusive … (profanity), the gov has no idea what kind of web he has stepped into," Bennett texted.