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ALBANY, NY – Four women who accused Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment have received subpoenas to testify under oath. This is the latest indication that the Attorney General’s investigation into Mr Cuomo’s conduct has entered a critical phase.
The issuance of the summonses, which was expected at some point in the investigation, underscores the progress of the investigation beyond an initial fact-finding phase during which attorneys interviewed several women extensively, but not under oath.
Attorney General Letitia James has not set a deadline for the publication of the results of the investigation into her office, which began in early March. However, according to one person aware of the investigation who was not, they will almost certainly have the authority to discuss it publicly by the end of the summer.
In the past few months, outside attorneys hired by Ms. James have been soliciting a plethora of government records and holding hours of preliminary interviews with several of the women who are now being asked to testify under oath. Joon H. Kim, a former federal attorney, and Anne L. Clark, a prominent labor law attorney who oversees the investigation, conducted the interviews
Ms. Clark went into the details of the sexual harassment allegations. She has amassed extensive documentation on the allegations, including text messages, emails and photos that Mr Cuomo’s accusers allege support their allegations, according to two people who were present at interviews with the women and on condition that they were present Talking anonymity about a sensitive matter.
Mr. Kim, said the two people, is carefully examining whether Mr. Cuomo or his aides have broken the law, destroyed documents or other evidence, or attempted to take revenge on the governor’s accusers or to disrupt the investigation in any way. The investigators are too The two people investigated whether Mr. Cuomo and his staff were following the appropriate procedures for dealing with sexual harassment.
The lawyers have spanned a wide network and issued subpoenas to members of the Executive Chamber who are looking for emails, documents and other materials, some of which date back to 2013
Charlotte Bennett, a former governor’s adviser who says 63-year-old Cuomo made sexual advances when they were alone in his Albany office, is due to testify under oath over the next two weeks, her attorney Debra Katz said.
Ms. Bennett, whose allegations against Mr. Cuomo sparked the attorney general’s investigation, sat with investigators for more than four hours in March for preliminary interviews, Ms. Katz said. Ms. Bennett, 25, has also provided more than “120 pages of contemporary records” and identified more than two dozen possible eyewitnesses, Ms. Katz said.
An employee who accused Mr. Cuomo of fondling her in the Executive Mansion in Albany was also summoned, her lawyer told the New York Times. (The woman has not been publicly identified.)
Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, also received a subpoena, her lawyer said. Ana Liss, a former government official who accused Mr. Cuomo of feeling uncomfortable, said she had also received a subpoena.
The subpoenas are issued as Republicans, and privately some Democrats in the State Assembly criticize an impeachment investigation by a State Assembly committee that investigates, among other things, allegations of sexual harassment.
The congregation’s investigation, which is controlled by Mr. Cuomo’s Democrat colleagues, began after Ms. James opened her investigation. It has criticized the pace at which it is moving, and some lawmakers describe it as an attempt to buy the governor time when faced with calls for his resignation.
Mr. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, and his objections have grown tougher with each passing week.
On Thursday he said that making someone “uncomfortable” was not a nuisance, a statement that appears to contradict a law he signed in 2019. This law states that sexual harassment consists of undesirable advances or sexually explicit comments that are “offensive” or contrary to the recipient “or” cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation.
“If I just made you feel uncomfortable, it’s not a bother, it’s uncomfortable,” said Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat. “I never said anything that I thought was inappropriate. I never meant to make you feel like this “
The gathering investigation is being led by Davis Polk & Wardwell law firm, notably Martine Beamon and Greg D. Andres, two former federal attorneys, and Angela Burgess, an expert in commercial defense and compliance.
The attorneys reporting to the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee informed lawmakers twice behind closed doors within two months. Many of the women accused of molesting Mr Cuomo were first contacted by lawyers late last month and no subpoenas were issued in connection with the investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Will Barclay, the assembly’s Republican leader, said it was unclear what progress had been made in the investigation and suggested that this “could be used as a stall tactic”.
“We are nearing a point where investigations by the Attorney General and several federal agencies obsolete the Judiciary Committee,” Barclay said, citing federal investigations into Mr Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
One problem that may complicate the gathering’s investigation is that the women who accused Mr. Cuomo of acting inappropriately were questioned as part of the Attorney General’s investigation.
Some attorneys may not want their clients to be interviewed by two separate investigative bodies if their statements show minor discrepancies that could undermine their accounts, even if truthful.
“Not everyone jumps when you ask for information or for an interview,” said MP Michael Montesano. the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “The people who observe us from the outside have to understand that.”
Some of Mr. Cuomo’s accusers have expressed reluctance to cooperate with the congregation’s investigation, either because they believe the investigation may be politicized or because they have the trauma of telling their stories twice, not again want to experience.
Ms. Katz, Ms. Bennett’s attorney, wrote a letter to the congregation’s attorneys in April saying she was concerned about her client sitting for another interview and called it “unnecessarily strenuous” with the potential To cause “permanent emotional damage”.
“Particularly given the potential impact of another investigative interview on Ms. Bennett’s well-being, we cannot in good faith advise her to participate in such an investigation,” wrote Ms. Katz in the letter copied to The Times.
Ms. Katz, who asked the congregation’s attorneys to simply rely on the results of Ms. James’ investigation, said she had received no response to her letter.
Ms. Boylan said she would not cooperate with the gathering’s investigation, calling it a “fraud” that lacked transparency. On Friday, however, her lawyer Jill Basinger said that Ms. Boylan “fully cooperated” in both investigations.
At least one woman, the aide who said Mr. Cuomo groped her in the executive mansion, was interviewed by the congregation’s attorneys, her attorney said.
Charles D. Lavine, a Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, defended the investigation. He said he was “extremely pleased with the work and progress of our independent investigators”.
“This is an extremely complicated investigation and it is not an end-time sporting event,” said Lavine.
Other people found that the gathering’s investigation had to take longer than the attorney general’s because it was broader in scope. In addition to examining whether the governor and his staff hushed up the scale of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, lower chamber attorneys are examining, among other things, whether Mr Cuomo used government funds to write his pandemic memoir.
“I understand it’s frustrating for a lot of people, including my leadership, because everything we do is confidential,” said Republican lawmaker Montesano. “But when you look at a study on this scale, on this scale, it isn’t just looking at one topic.”
Mr Montesano said the members of the committee are expected to be briefed again by the lawyers later this month, possibly in person rather than through Zoom to avoid leaks.
The attorney general’s team has also issued subpoenas requesting information about the actions of a former aide of Mr. Cuomo, Larry Schwartz.
Mr Schwartz, who served as the state’s vaccine czar until recently, spoke to at least two county executives after the allegations against Mr Cuomo first appeared in late February and asked officials if they still supported the governor while he was in office also discussed the vaccination plans.
Jesse McKinley and William K. Rashbaum contributed to the coverage.