Editor’s note: This article contains discussion of sexual harassment.
On Thursday, Feb. 17, a New York State trooper filed a lawsuit against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo for sexual harassment, also accusing Cuomo’s former top aide Melissa DeRosa ’04 MPA ’09 of helping to cover-up the incidents.
The publicly anonymous woman, referred to as “Trooper 1” in the suit, alleges that Cuomo groped her against her will while she was in the former governor’s Personal Service Unit.
“As Trooper 1 went ahead of the Governor to hold a door open for him, the Governor placed the palm of his hand on her belly button and slid it across her waist to her right hip, where her gun was holstered,” Trooper 1’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
Cuomo resigned in August, following Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation of sexual misconduct allegations made against him. The attorney general investigation also included the claims made by Trooper 1, however, she is the first of the 11 women involved in the investigation to sue the former governor. This is also the first lawsuit to also include DeRosa as a defendant.
The lawsuit names DeRosa for allegedly covering up the governor’s acts by misleading a reporter at The Albany Times Union in 2020 when the reporter inquired about Trooper 1’s transfer to the former governor’s personal security unit, although she did not have the proper qualifications.
“We are only aware of this case from Twitter, but according to the trooper’s own testimony, Melissa’s [DeRosa] only interaction with her was to say ‘hello and goodbye.’ It is not a viable case anywhere in America and is beyond frivolous,” Paul Schectman, an attorney for DeRosa said to CBS News.
The New York State Police is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, though the case does not specifically state how they played a role in the actions alleged. The suit does accuse all three defendants of discrimination and retaliation.
“The governor did not act alone,” the suit states. “He was enabled by the machinery of the state.”
This litigation comes two weeks after the Oswego County District Attorney dropped the criminal charges against Cuomo, citing insufficient legal grounds. The Albany, Westchester and Nassau County, New York district attorneys also reached similar conclusions on the sex-crime cases in their jurisdictions.
Despite the accumulating accusations, Cuomo continues to deny the claims of sexual misconduct. Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, noted in a statement to The New York Times that the various district attorneys had chosen not to progress with criminal proceedings. The New York Times also stated that Azzopardi failed to disclose that the same district attorneys characterized the allegations as deeply troubling and credible.
“[The trooper] made the decision to proceed with this lawsuit anonymously with the hope that she can vindicate her legal rights without further victim shaming,” said Valdi Licul, a lawyer representing the trooper, in a statement to CBS News.