ALBANI, New York – Four women who accused Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment have been summoned to testify under oath, the latest testimony that the state prosecutor’s investigation into Mr Cuomo’s behavior has entered a critical phase.
The issuance of the subpoenas, which was expected at some point in the investigation, highlighted the progress of the investigation after the initial fact-finding phase, during which lawyers questioned several women at length, but not under oath.
Attorney General Leticia James has not set a deadline for disclosing the findings of an investigation into her office that began in early March, but will almost certainly be completed by the end of the summer, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discusses it publicly.
Ms. Clark delves into the specifics of the allegations of sexual harassment. She has gathered extensive documentation of the claims, including text messages, emails and photos that Mr Cuomo’s prosecutors say support their claims, according to two people who attended interviews with the women and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issue.
They said Mr Kim was investigating carefully whether Mr Cuomo or his aides had broken any laws, destroyed documents or other evidence, or tried to retaliate against the governor’s accusers or interfere in any way with the investigation. Investigators are also investigating whether Mr Cuomo and his staff have followed appropriate processes to deal with sexual harassment, the two said.
Lawyers are throwing a wide net, issuing subpoenas to executive chamber officials looking for emails, documents and other materials, which in some cases date back to 2013, according to an acquaintance.
Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to the governor who says Mr Cuomo, 63, made sexual progress when they were alone in his office in Albany, is expected to testify under oath over the next two weeks, she said. lawyer Debra Katz.
Ms. Bennett, whose allegations against Mr. Cuomo were the impetus for the Attorney General’s investigation, sat down with investigators for more than four hours of preliminary interviews in March, Ms. Katz said. Ms. Bennett, 25, also provided more than “120 pages of contemporary records” and identified more than two dozen possible eyewitnesses, Ms. Katz said.
A staff woman who accused Mr Cuomo of touching her at the Albany Executive Mansion has also been summoned, her lawyer told The New York Times. (The woman is not publicly identified.)
Lindsay Boylan, the first woman to accuse Mr Cuomo of sexual harassment, also received a summons, her lawyer said. Anna Lis, a former administration official who accused Mr Cuomo of making her uncomfortable, said she she also received a summons.
The summons came as Republicans, and some Democrats in the National Assembly in particular have criticized the impeachment investigation by a National Assembly commission that addresses, among other issues, allegations of sexual harassment.
The Assembly’s inquiry, which is controlled by Mr Cuomo’s Democrats, began after Mrs James launched her investigation. He has drawn criticism for his pace, with some lawmakers calling it an attempt to buy the governor time, as he faces calls for his resignation.
Mr Cuomo denied any wrongdoing and his denials became more severe with each passing week.
He said Thursday that making someone “feel uncomfortable” is not harassment, a statement that appears to contradict a law he signed in 2019. The law says sexual harassment consists of unwanted advances or sexual harassment. overt remarks that are “offensive” or undesirable to the recipient or “cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation.”
“If I just made you uncomfortable, it’s not harassment, it’s a feeling of discomfort,” said Mr Cuomo, a third-term Democrat. “I never said anything I thought was inappropriate. I never wanted to make you feel that way. “
The Assembly’s investigation is being led by Davis Polk & Wardwell, in particular Martin Beamon and Greg D. Andres, two former federal prosecutors, and Angela Burgess, a defense and law enforcement expert.
Lawyers who report to the Assembly’s Judicial Committee inform MPs behind closed doors twice in two months. Many of the women who accused Mr Cuomo of harassment were first contacted by lawyers at the end of last month and no subpoenas of any kind have been issued in connection with the investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter. with the issue, which spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Will Barclay, the Republican leader of the Assembly, said it was unclear what progress had been made in the investigation, and suggested that it could be “used as a tactic to stop”.
“We are approaching a time when the Judiciary Committee will become obsolete through investigations conducted by the Attorney General and a number of federal agencies,” Mr Barclay said, referring to federal investigations into Mr Cuomo’s work with medical staff. nurses domestic deaths during the pandemic.
One of the issues that could complicate the Assembly’s investigation is that the women who accused Mr Cuomo of inappropriate actions have already been interviewed as part of the Attorney General’s investigation.
Some lawyers may not want their clients to be interviewed by two separate investigative bodies if there are minor discrepancies in their testimony that could undermine their accounts, even if they are true.
“Not everyone jumps when you ask them for information or ask for their interview,” said MP Michael Montesano, the best Republican on the judiciary. “It’s something that people watching us from the outside need to understand.”
Some of Mr Cuomo’s prosecutors have expressed a reluctance to co-operate with the Assembly’s investigation, either because they believe the investigation could be politicized or because they do not want to relive the trauma of telling their stories twice.
Ms Katz, Ms Bennett’s lawyer, wrote a letter to the Assembly’s lawyers in April, saying she was concerned about her client, who appeared in another interview, calling it “unnecessarily exhausting”, with the potential to cause ” lasting emotional damage. ‘
“Especially in light of the potential impact of another investigative interview on Ms. Bennett’s well-being, we cannot conscientiously advise her to participate in such an investigation,” Ms. Katz wrote in the letter, a copy of which The Times received.
Ms Katz, who called on Assembly lawyers to simply rely on the findings of Ms James’s inquiry, said she had not received a reply to her letter.
Ms. Boylan had said she would not cooperate with the Assembly’s investigation, calling it a “sham” that lacked transparency. On Friday, however, her lawyer, Jill Basinger, said Ms. Boylan was “cooperating fully” with both investigations.
At least one woman, the aide, who said Mr Cuomo was touching her at the Executive Mansion, had been interviewed by Assembly lawyers, her lawyer said.
Member of Parliament Charles D. Lavigne, a Democrat and chairman of the judiciary, defended the investigation. He said he was “extremely pleased with the work and progress of our independent investigators”.
“This is an extremely complex investigation and it is not an athletic event where there is time to end,” Mr Lavine said.
Other people noted that the Assembly’s investigation should take longer than the Prosecutor General’s investigation, as it is more comprehensive. In addition to investigating whether the governor and his staff covered up the death toll in nursing homes during the pandemic, lower house lawyers are investigating whether Mr. Cuomo used state resources to write his memoirs about the pandemic, along with other statements.
“I understand that this is frustrating for many people, including my leadership, because everything we do is confidential,” said Mr. Montesano, a Republican. “But when you look at an investigation of this scope, on such a scale, not just one issue is being investigated.”
Mr Montesano said commission members were expected to be instructed again by lawyers later this month, potentially in person instead of through Zoom, to prevent leaks.
The Attorney General’s team also issued summonses requesting information about the actions of Mr Cuomo’s former aide, Larry Schwartz.
Mr Schwartz, who until recently served as king of vaccines in the state, spoke with at least two county leaders after allegations against Mr Cuomo first surfaced in late February, asking officials if they still supported the governor, such as at the same time, they discuss immunization plans.
Jesse McKinley and William K. Rushbaum contributed to the reporting.