Politics

Cuomo sued by New York trooper who claimed he sexually harassed her

Rebecca Shabad
WATCH LIVE
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks before getting vaccinated at the mass vaccination site at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem on March 17, 2021 in New York City.
Seth Wenig | Pool | Getty Images

A New York state trooper who previously said that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed her filed a lawsuit against him Thursday over the alleged misconduct.

The woman, identified as "Trooper 1" in the lawsuit, sued the former governor, the New York State Police and former Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa in federal court.

The trooper alleges in the lawsuit that Cuomo sexually harassed her by commenting on her appearance, asking her to find him a "girlfriend" who could "handle pain" and steering "their conversations towards sex." He also "used his physical proximity to Trooper 1 to touch her inappropriately," including by running "his finger down the center of my back of my spine, basically from the top of my neck, basically midway down with his pointer finger and just said, 'Hey, you,'" the suit claims.

The trooper also alleges that DeRosa, who served as Cuomo's chief of staff, concealed the governor's harassment. The lawsuit claims DeRosa was "specifically involved in hiding the governor's behavior."

DeRosa's attorney, Paul Schectman, told NBC News that his client's "only interaction with her [the trooper] was to say 'hello and goodbye.' It is not a viable case anywhere in America and is beyond frivolous."

The trooper's lawsuit says she is seeking damages for "severe mental anguish and emotional distress," a declaratory judgment that Cuomo, DeRosa and the state police violated federal, state and city laws barring harassment, and attorney fees.

"Given the threats and victim-shaming that Trooper 1 has faced after she testified truthfully about being sexually harassed in the workplace by the former governor, she has made the decision to proceed with this lawsuit anonymously with the hope that she can vindicate her legal rights and move on with her life," said the trooper's counsel, Valdi Licul, partner at Wigdor LLP.

A spokesman for the New York State Police said the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in a statement Thursday that five district attorneys previously examined the allegations and determined that no one broke the law.

"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. "Gov. Cuomo will fight every attempt at cheap cash extortions and is anxious to have the dirty politics stop — we look forward to justice in a court of law."

On Friday, the trooper's lawyer amended the complaint to name Azzopardi in the lawsuit as well for accusing the trooper of extortion in his response to the initial complaint. Azzopardi did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.

The trooper's allegations were included in a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James last year, which included accusations of sexual harassment by Cuomo against other women. The findings ultimately led to Cuomo's resignation as governor in August.

The former governor has denied wrongdoing in response to the allegations in the attorney general's report. When the report was released in August, he said, "The facts are much different than has been portrayed. I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances." He also suggested the report was tainted by "bias" and portrayed himself as a protector of women.

"For those who are using this moment to score political points, or seek publicity or personal gain, I say they actually discredit the legitimate sexual harassment victims that the law was designed to protect," Cuomo said.