By Zachary Stieber
A top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned late Sunday.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the last 10 years,” Melissa DeRosa said in a statement to news outlets.
“Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state,” she added.
Cuomo’s office did not return an early morning request for comment.
According to an investigative report from a team tapped by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo sexually harassed and groped multiple women, including an executive assistant.
One woman, described as “Executive Assistant #1″—who filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo last week—told investigators she was scared of what would happen if DeRosa and other top staffers in the governor’s office learned about her allegations.
“The way he was so firm with me that I couldn’t show anyone else that photo, I was just terrified that if I shared what was going on that it would somehow get around,” the woman told them, according to a transcript contained in the report. “And if Stephanie Benton or Melissa DeRosa heard that, I was going to lose my job. Because I knew that I certainly was going to be the one to go.”
Investigators also said that senior staff, including DeRosa, pressured former employees to secretly record phone conversations with two women, one of whom came forward with allegations against Cuomo, “potentially in the hopes of obtaining additional information to use against any women who might speak out.”
The recordings did not end up being useful. “I did not think it went well,” DeRosa told investigators. DeRosa acknowledged directing at least one of the calls because she “thought there was a politically calculated movement afoot.”
DeRosa also said she was part of the group of top aides that decided to send confidential files on one of the accusers, Lindsay Boylan, to reporters as part of a response to Boylan’s accusations.
The report mentioned DeRosa 187 times, including outlining allegations that the aide would shout and yell at Boylan, one of Cuomo’s accusers, “for illogical things.”
DeRosa denied the allegations and has defended Cuomo against the sexual misconduct accusations.
But their testimony diverged at times. For instance, Cuomo denied ever referring to senior female staffers as the “mean girls.” DeRosa told investigators she did hear Cuomo use the term multiple times. He would use it when he felt DeRosa and other top aides “weren’t being inclusive” or that they “should be more inclusive.”
One accuser said Cuomo would occasionally ask her how the “mean girls” were treating her.
The resignation came several days after Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple confirmed one of Cuomo’s former aides, the woman described as “Executive Assistant #1,” filed a criminal complaint against the Democrat.
“I think we’ve all read the attorney general’s report. At this point, I’m very comfortable and safe saying that she is in fact a victim,” he told a press conference on Saturday.
The sheriff’s office said it requested material from the attorney general’s office, which said it will cooperate with the sheriff and other authorities probing Cuomo.
The investigation would likely culminate in a misdemeanor charge, if any, according to Apple. Cuomo could be arrested.
The assistant has identified herself as Brittany Commisso. She told investigators that Cuomo groped her under her blouse and grabbed her buttocks.
“What he did to me was a crime,” Commisso said on “CBS This Morning.” “He broke the law.”
Cuomo has repeatedly denied touching anyone inappropriately and defied calls to resign.
The Democrat-controlled New York Legislature is considering impeaching him, but is conducting its own investigation first.
Rita Glavin, one of Cuomo’s attorneys, told reporters in a briefing on Friday that, as a former federal prosecutor, she knows “the difference between putting a case together against a target, versus doing independent fact-finding with an open mind.”
“And there has been no open-minded fact-finding in this case. The investigation was conducted to support a predetermined narrative and in our legal system, both sides are heard and given access to the evidence, but here, instead of acting as independent fact-finders, the investigators acted as prosecutors, judge, and jury,” she added.
Glavin was describing a team that included Joon Kim, another former federal prosecutor, and convened by James, a Democrat.
Glavin also took aim at Commisso, alleging there is no documentary evidence to support what she has alleged.
Fabien Levy, James’s press secretary, later decried those comments.
“After multiple women made accusations that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed them, the governor himself requested that Attorney General James oversee an independent investigation. The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women,” Levy said. “There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”
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