Cuomo Aides Subpoenaed in Sex-Harassment Case, WSJ Says


New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office has sent subpoenas to dozens of officials in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration in connection with an investigation into sexual-harassment claims against the governor, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide, is among the officials who received a subpoena, the paper said.

Paul Fishman, a lawyer for the Cuomo administration, said in response to the paper that “no one should be surprised that the AG’s office is issuing requests for documents and interviewing witnesses, including many who work for the governor.”

The attorney general’s office and Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bloomberg previously reported on Thursday that investigators working under the attorney general’s oversight asked at least one of Cuomo’s multiple accusers about her interactions with DeRosa, whose official title is secretary to the governor. DeRosa has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, told investigators that in May 2019, Cuomo called her into his office to “get to know her and assess whether he could trust her,” according to her lawyer, Debra Katz, who said she was present for Bennett’s statements to investigators.

Bennett told investigators that he asked if she had a boyfriend, the length of past intimate relationships, and whether she would “honor her commitments” to the governor, Katz said. Then, Cuomo handed Bennett a copy of the lyrics to the Irish ballad “Danny Boy” and told her to memorize it.

Later that day, Cuomo ordered Bennett to perform “Danny Boy” in front of DeRosa and the director of the governor’s offices, Stephanie Benton, Katz said. She added that Bennett told investigators that she believed DeRosa saw how humiliated Bennett was, but dismissed the episode as “hazing” and continued to watch “with a mix of horror and amusement.”

Katz said descriptions of DeRosa and the high-ranking women in the office from her client fit a pattern among the sexual-harassment cases she has worked on.

“When you have high-profile powerful people who engage in repetitive sexual harassment, they always have enablers,” said Katz, who represented Christine Blasey Ford in her allegations that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to the governor, said on Thursday that the governor’s office “will not comment on leaks by those who have chosen to take a tack so clearly at odds with the attorney general’s mission of completing a fair, thorough and unbiased review of the facts.”

DeRosa’s unassuming title of secretary to the governor belies her clout as the three-term Democrat’s highest-ranking aide. With Cuomo facing calls to resign over claims of sexual harassment and accusations that his administration undercounted coronavirus deaths data, she has emerged as one of his chief defenders.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, DeRosa, 38, described the emotional cost of her job during the pandemic.

“Media accounts have reduced me to a caricature, but I’m a human being who truly believes in and cares deeply about government and public service,” she said. “I’ve worked incredibly hard throughout my career and especially during the pandemic. I didn’t sleep. The last thing I would do in my day is call family members of health-care workers who died and tell them I’m sorry for their pain, and then close the door, lay on the floor and cry. I am not the one-dimensional person that has been portrayed in the press.”

Another former aide who has accused Cuomo of harassment, Ana Liss, told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that she was asked by investors for the attorney general’s office if she was targeted by DeRosa.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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