By Mimi Nguyen Ly
A ninth woman has come forward accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct
Sherry Vill, 55, said that Cuomo had kissed her on the cheek on two separate occasions on the same day in 2017. His actions made her feel uncomfortable, she said.
At the time when the alleged incidents occurred, the governor was visiting her home in Greece, N.Y., an upstate town near Rochester, to survey flood damage to the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River areas in the wake of a storm.
The allegations were relayed in a virtual press conference with Vill’s attorney, Gloria Allred, on Monday afternoon.
In a detailed description, Vill said that the first kiss took place in her house.
“I was holding my small dog in my arms, and I thought he was going to pet my dog but instead he wedged his face between the dog and mine and kissed me on the other cheek in what I felt was a highly sexual manner,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. He said: ‘that’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks.’”
Vill told the press conference that she felt “embarrassed and weird” about the alleged kiss. “I am Italian, and in my family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss, especially upon meeting someone for the first time.”
She said that Cuomo also told her she was “beautiful,” adding, “I felt he was coming on to me in my home.”
Vill described the second kiss as having taken place in front of the house after Cuomo had seen the flood damage. She said that Cuomo approached her, took her hand, and said, “Is there anything else you want?”
“I did not know how to respond,” she said. “He then leaned down on top of me and while still holding one of my hands, he forcibly grabbed my face with his other big hand and kissed my cheek, again, in a very aggressive manner.”
She said that she felt like she “was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my cheek again.” Vill said that she could not stop him because the kiss was done “so quickly.”
“I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one,” Vill added. “I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Governor Cuomo came to my home. His actions were overtly sexual, highly inappropriate, and disrespectful to me and to my family.”
Vill’s attorney, Allred, showed multiple photos said to be from Cuomo’s visit to Vill’s home. One of the photos was a blurry screenshot allegedly from a video of the kiss. The photo was uploaded to Facebook by Vill’s daughter soon after the alleged incident and was captioned: “The governor kissing my mom.”
When asked about where the screenshot came from, Allred said that the video was deleted a long time ago.
Vill said that she is only coming forward now after knowing about eight other women who have accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct.
She said that she is not pressing charges, nor taking any legal action. She said she only wants to cooperate with the New York Attorney General’s investigation into Cuomo and felt that what happened to her should be included in the investigation.
Cuomo’s Attorney Responds
Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, said of the latest claims against the governor, “During times of crisis, the Governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses.”
“As I have said before, the Governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years,” Glavin said in a statement to media outlets.
She provided a hyperlink to photographs from Cuomo’s visit to the flood damaged area in 2017, and encouraged everyone to view other photos.
Glavin said that “nothing” that was described by Vill at the press conference was “unique in that regard.”
Vill told the press conference that she later received a signed letter from the governor, which also included photos of their meeting at her home that his office took.
She also received a voicemail from one of Cuomo’s staff, inviting her to a press conference. But she said that no one else in the family was invited, including her husband, which raised “alarm bells” in her mind. She declined the invitation and said it made her feel uncomfortable.
In response, Glavin said that the letter Vill received was a “nearly identical follow-up form letter” sent to more than 30 people that Cuomo had visited, and that the form letters were “signed with an autopen.”
“It is a practice of the Governor’s office to send signed photos to people he meets with after events, and those photos are regularly signed with an autopen,” Glavin’s statement reads. “It is common for staffers to contact constituents after events and invite them to a future event on a related topic.”
Investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James are currently probing allegations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo. The investigation began earlier this month after eight women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against the embattled governor.