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Attorney General Letitia James faces criticism for handling of sexual harassment accusations against longtime chief of staff Ibrahim Khan

AG Letitia James speaks out about allegations against top aide
AG Letitia James speaks out about allegations against top aide 02:33

NEW YORK -- Stunning accusations against Attorney General Letitia James claim she handled sexual harassment allegations against a top aide far differently than her aggressive investigation of former governor Andrew Cuomo.

The charges are coming from one of the women whose allegations of sexual harassment led to the resignation of James' longtime chief of staff, Ibrahim Khan.

As CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer explains, she raises many questions about how the case was handled, and others have wondered why the Attorney General waited until after she won reelection to make the case public.

READ MORE: Ibrahim Khan, chief of staff to Attorney General Letitia James, resigns amid sexual harassment allegations

Sofia Quintanar, 33, worked for James as a deputy press secretary until last year. She is speaking out now as both an alleged victim of sexual harassment by Khan and as a former employee who doesn't understand how her case was handled differently from the sexual harassment case brought by the office against Cuomo that forced him to resign.

She charges that James took more care to protect Khan than the women who accused him of abuse.

"I find it just appalling to see how the office handled this publicly," Quintanar said in an interview with the New York Times. "Me and the other victims, we deserve the same vindication that was given to those other victims that she stood up for ... It shouldn't be any different because it happened in her house."

Quintanar said she was referring to how James protected the 11 women she claimed were victimized by Cuomo.

She said Khan touched her inappropriately after a Brooklyn fundraiser and kissed her against her will.

One of the problems for the Attorney General is that she didn't disclose the investigation of Khan until last week even though the probe of the charges was going on while she sought reelection.

It wasn't until Wednesday that she offered a public defense of her actions, releasing the following statement:

"First and foremost, I thank the women who came forward, and I want to assure them that they were heard and that I believe them.

"My office treated this matter as aggressively as every other matter that has come before our office. Within 24 hours, our office took disciplinary action and put Ibrahim Khan under restrictions, and within 72 hours, we engaged an outside law firm that began an impartial and exhaustive review of the allegations. Mr. Khan resigned while the process was still ongoing. When the process concluded, my office spoke with each individual and informed them that allegations were substantiated. I am confident in the steps that were taken to swiftly review the allegations and in the integrity of the investigation."

But the issue has continued to percolate and there are demands for an outside probe of the case. Gov. Kathy Hochul was asked if it was unethical to hide the case until after the election.

"I'm not going to conjecture on what's on people's minds and what their motivations are. I'm simply saying that there's a lot of-- the situation's not very clear," Hochul said.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report

AG Tish James accused of protecting aide from harassment allegations 02:56

In an interview with NY1 Wednesday, James defended her handling of the case.

"We believe that we acted appropriately and decisively," she said.

She added, "We did a thorough and independent investigation without conflict of interest or any impropriety."

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reports, James gave a timeline of the events. She says she learned of the allegations on Oct. 2, she limited Khan's access to the office on Oct. 3, then hired independent law firm to investigate the allegations, which she says were later substantiated.

James did not disclose this publicly, which was about a month before she was up for re-election in a time period that she ducked debates with her opponent.

"I understand the appearance, but whenever there's an investigation, rarely do we comment on the investigations. We do not want to compromise the investigation, and it was really critically important that we protect the individuals who were involved," James said.

Asked why James did not make a criminal referral, she said that could still happen.

Khan resigned on Nov. 22, but he says he was slated to leave office by the end of the year, not related to an investigation, he says, that found no workplace misconduct.

Meanwhile, it's unclear at this point if an outside probe will take place.

Democrats control both the Assembly and Senate, but they may be pushed to do something to show their impartiality.

The demands for a probe are also coming from friends of former governor Cuomo, who feel he wasn't treated fairly.

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