Cuomo accuser speaks out for first time as criminal probe begins into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has denied the sexual harassment claims. PHOTO: OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK GOVERNOR

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The woman who filed a criminal complaint accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of groping her breast and buttocks spoke out publicly for the first time, calling for him to face judgment for his actions.

Ms Brittany Commisso, formerly identified only as "executive assistant #1" in a damning report by the state attorney general, spoke in an interview with CBS News and the Albany Times Union that was released on Monday (Aug 9).

"What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law," Ms Commisso, the first of Cuomo's accusers to file a criminal complaint with the Albany County Sheriff's Office, said in the interview. "The governor needs to be held accountable."

Cuomo and his lawyers have remained defiant in the face of intensifying pressure on the governor to resign as the three-term Democrat confronts possible criminal investigations in four New York counties and potential impeachment proceedings.

Cuomo has denied the sexual harassment claims and remains hunkered down in the Governor's Mansion in Albany. His highest-ranking aide resigned on Sunday and the state Assembly Judiciary Committee meets on Monday to weigh his future.

Cuomo's office didn't respond to a request for comment on Monday. The governor has said that he "never touched anyone inappropriately".

Ms Commisso, a 33-year-old who still works in the governor's office, outlined several incidents where Cuomo kissed her on the mouth, grabbed her buttocks, and put his hand up her shirt to cup her breast in the Executive Mansion.

She said she never had any consensual sexual activity with Cuomo, and had not come forward because she was afraid of retaliation and thought no one would believe her.

"If I did something to insult him, it wasn't going to be him that would get fired or in trouble, it was going to be me. I felt that if I said something, no one is going to believe me," Ms Commisso said in the interview.

She called working for the governor "her dream job" and said she thought, 'If I have to sit here and take it and keep my mouth shut, then that's what I'm going to do".

Ms Commisso decided to reveal her name after hearing Cuomo's response to the attorney general's report and her allegations.

She said she wanted to show her young daughter that "she does have a voice. I never want her to be afraid of a person in power," she said. "What he did to me was a crime."

Criminal complaint

Ms Commisso has filed a formal criminal complaint with the Albany County's Sheriff's office.

Sheriff Craig Apple said last Saturday that his office is starting an investigation and that he has asked the New York Attorney General's office for information.

That agency last week issued a report accusing Cuomo of sexually harassing Ms Commisso and 10 other women and creating a "climate of fear" in his offices and said it would cooperate with all criminal probes.

"We're at very infant stages of this investigation," Sheriff Apple said at a press conference. "We have a lot of fact-finding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do. You know what? I'm not going to rush it because of who he is, I'm not going to delay it because of who he is."

"I had a female victim come forward, which was probably the hardest thing she's ever done in her life," Mr Apple said.

In March, Cuomo's office itself informed police of the groping accusation after Ms Commisso made claims that surfaced in the Albany Times-Union.

Ms Rita Glavin, Cuomo's lawyer, called Ms Commisso's claims untrue.

"He did not grope her, and there was evidence that was provided by several individuals to the attorney general about potential motives for her to have made that claim," Ms Glavin said on CNN last Saturday.

In the interview that aired on Monday, Ms Commisso said she remains employed by the governor's office despite acts of retaliation including being passed over for raises and job assignments.

"People look at me differently. I'm not given the same job opportunities," she said. "To me this was a dream job and unfortunately it turned into a nightmare."

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