Shortly afterward, a member of the governor’s protective detail — the Protective Services Unit, or PSU — told her that the governor “wanted her on the detail tomorrow,” according to the trooper. That member of the PSU, identified in the report only as Senior Investigator #1, later emailed the trooper with the subject line, “what did you say to him???????” It mentioned potentially drafting the trooper into the PSU.
The problem, as the senior investigator noted subsequently, was that members of the detail needed to have three years of experience, a mark the trooper hadn’t hit. But on Nov. 17, the senior investigator emailed with good news: “Ha ha they changed the minimum from 3 years to 2. Just for you.”
The trooper applied for a transfer. It was granted the following January. At which point, the trooper said, the harassment began.
“Trooper #1 described the Governor’s behavior toward her after she joined the PSU as generally ‘flirtatious’ and ‘creepy,’ " the report states. Once, he allegedly asked her why she didn’t wear a dress while serving with him, a comment that a senior officer, the detail commander, later told her “stays in the truck.” At another point, he allegedly warned her against getting married because, among other reasons, “your sex drive goes down.” He once allegedly told the trooper that she was “too old” for him, then telling her that he was looking for a girlfriend who “can handle pain.”
On at least three occasions — each corroborated contemporaneously — Cuomo allegedly touched the trooper inappropriately. The first was when she was escorting him in an elevator, with the senior investigator also present.
“[T]he Governor placed his finger on the top of her neck and ran his finger down the center of her spine midway down her back,” the report alleges, “and said to Trooper #1, ‘Hey, you.’ ”
At another point, Cuomo allegedly asked the trooper if he could kiss her, catching her off-guard. She acquiesced. After discussing the incident with a colleague, the colleague recommended that she next time say she was sick. When Cuomo again asked, the trooper told investigators, she did exactly that — prompting Cuomo to look at her “almost in disgust.”
In September 2019, Cuomo allegedly touched the trooper in a way that made her feel “completely violated,” according to testimony she gave investigators.
“[H]e ran the palm of his left hand across her stomach in the direction opposite the direction that he was walking,” the report alleges. “The center of the Governor’s hand was on Trooper #1′s belly button, and he pushed his hand back to her right hip where she kept her gun.”
This was witnessed by several other officials, including another senior investigator who asked if she wanted to report the incident. She declined.
This documentation of Cuomo’s alleged behavior is only half of the story, of course. The other half of the story is how Cuomo’s position and power allowed the alleged harassment to happen.
The report goes to some lengths to detail why the trooper was selected to join the PSU. It documents that Senior Investigator #1 had advocated for the promotion but was stymied by the experience requirement. But, he told investigators, he “subsequently received a call from a high-level staff member within the Executive Chamber who instructed him to ‘hire the female trooper from the bridge’ and stated, with respect to the policy, ‘we are making adjustments for her.’ ” Hence his later email to the trooper about changing the rule.
Investigators asked Cuomo about why the trooper was transferred. He told them that he had done so because he “was on constant alert to recruit more women, Blacks, and Asians to the state police detail” — certainly a grotesque bit of spin if the allegations are true.
Cuomo also claimed to have told the State Police to consider two female troopers he met in November 2017 for transfer to his detail, again citing his focus on diversity. But the senior investigator didn’t see Cuomo speaking with the second trooper who, he testified, later commented that he’d “recruited [Trooper #1], but not me.”
When a reporter from the Albany Times-Union asked about the trooper’s transfer to the PSU in an email last December, he was provided with a misleading statement about how the trooper met the minimum standard for joining the team. More alarmingly, the report also alleges that senior Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa berated the reporter’s editor for the question, telling him that “you guys are trying to reduce her hiring to being about looks. That’s what men do.” Cuomo then later allegedly called the editor to play good cop, explaining with boundless cynicism that “this is one of the topics that sends [DeRosa] off a cliff.” The story was spiked.
Repeatedly, the report cites the trooper’s concern about the repercussions of crossing Cuomo. Here was how she described her decision not to report the stomach-touching incident, for example.
“Do I want to make waves? No. And also, in the back of my mind, you know, [Detail Commander] had already previously witnessed me being asked why I don’t wear a dress,” the report quotes the trooper as saying. “So if the detail commander is basically okay with that behavior, you know, [Detail Commander] never even checked on me or even said anything to me after that, other than stays in truck, don’t repeat. … I’ve heard horror stories about people getting kicked off the detail or transferred over like little things, like I’m not — I had no plans to report it.”
When she was told not to mention the dress comment, she testified, she immediately became stressed since she’d already told a colleague about it. She worried that she’d “messed up.”
Eventually, she told investigators, she agreed to come forward because “at the end of the day, if I could help validate these women, I think that’s more important than … my own, you know, personal life.”
It’s easy to get mired in the details, so let’s step back. The allegation here is that Cuomo encountered a state trooper at an event and recommended she be promoted to his personal detail. The requirements to do so were changed to allow that to happen. When she joined his team, he repeatedly harassed her verbally and touched her inappropriately, the report said. He could be confident in doing so because of his leverage over that team broadly and her employment specifically. When questions emerged about his behavior, he alleged that he was simply looking out for women and his top aide ironically accused a reporter of sexism.
It is, as alleged, a textbook example of how power allows abuse to occur. And it is only one of about a dozen allegations.