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State trooper sues former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, claiming discrimination and retaliation

Albany district attorney won't pursue Cuomo criminal charge
Albany district attorney won't pursue Cuomo criminal charge 02:00

A New York State trooper is suing former Governor Andrew Cuomo, claiming discrimination on the basis of sex and retaliation, according to court documents filed on Thursday. The New York State Police and Cuomo's former top aide Melissa DeRosa are also named in the lawsuit, which alleges that the governor sexually harassed the trooper over several years.

In the lawsuit, the trooper says Cuomo requested she be a part of the Protective Service Unit — his security detail — after they had met for just a minute and despite the fact that she was under-qualified for the position. 

He then allegedly harassed her, commenting on her appearance, steering their conversations towards sex, telling her not to inform her colleagues about the nature of their conversations and, in one instance, "asking her to find him a girlfriend who could 'handle pain.'" The trooper also claims that the former governor inappropriately touched her, running a finger down her spine and saying, "Hey you."

Allegations from the trooper were also included in the investigation released in August by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which found that Cuomo "sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law," James said. Cuomo announced his resignation a week later.

Cuomo has repeatedly disputed the findings of James' investigation and denied sexually harassing anyone. 

"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," he said in a video message after James' report came out. "I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."

Transcripts released in Cuomo harassment investigation 02:21

In a statement to CBS News, Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, said the trooper's lawsuit relies on James' "fraud of a report" and that the law firm representing the trooper is "widely known to use the press to extort settlements on behalf of 'anonymous claimants.'"

"If kissing someone on the cheek, patting someone on the back or stomach or waving hello at a public event on New Year's Eve is actionable then we are all in trouble," he said, adding that "we look forward to justice in a court of law."

In a statement to CBS News, Valdi Licul, a lawyer representing the trooper, said she "made the decision to proceed with this lawsuit anonymously with the hope that she can vindicate her legal rights without further victim shaming." 

"...We will not be deterred by the ex-Governor's bullying tactics," the statement said. "He is only making his legal problems worse by lashing out at his victim and her counsel with false and defamatory statements intended to further retaliate against her and defame us."

According to the trooper's lawsuit, in one instance in 2019, the governor allegedly asked the trooper if he could kiss her while she was working outside of his Mount Kisco residence. The trooper, who claims she did not want to offend him and feared retaliation from him, said yes. Cuomo then allegedly kissed her on the cheek "while acknowledging that it was against the rules for him to do so," the lawsuit says.

Later that same year, Cuomo asked the trooper why she wasn't wearing a dress while they were driving to an event. She replied that it would have been difficult to carry her gun while in a dress. The head of Protective Service Unit said she was dressed appropriately, in her business attire. Later, the head of PSU allegedly texted the trooper a message saying "stays in truck," which the lawsuit claims was "a clear order that she not disclose to anyone the Governor's inappropriate comment."

The lawsuit points to the investigation conducted by the attorney general, an investigation by the state legislature's Judiciary Committee which resulted in similar findings, and other women's accusations against Cuomo to allege that this was a pattern of behavior.

Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns amid sexual harassment scandal 04:45

The trooper also accuses DeRosa of helping hide Cuomo's conduct. In 2020, when The Times Union newspaper began to look into the governor's treatment of the trooper, it contacted DeRosa, who "yelled at the editor of The Times Union and accused him of being sexist for even making the inquiry," the lawsuit says. The trooper alleges that this allowed the governor to continue his harassment.

Paul Schectman, an attorney for Melissa DeRosa, disputed the allegations against her. "We are only aware of this case from Twitter, but according to the trooper's own testimony Melissa's only interaction with her was to say 'hello and goodbye.' It is not a viable case anywhere in America and is beyond frivolous," he said.

According to the lawsuit, instances of harassment continued into 2021. The trooper alleges the governor also hugged her on at least one occasion and gave her "unwanted attention."

Several other women have gone public with accusations against Cuomo, which he has also denied.

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