A former aide to ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who previously claimed Cuomo groped her breast, is filing a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and abuse, according to a summons filed this week.
Brittany Commisso, one of 11 women whose claims of harassment were substantiated by an August 2021 report by the state’s attorney general, is filing suit against the former governor under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, alleging “pervasive abusive conduct” and “continuous sexual harassment” during her employment as his assistant, according to the summons filed Wednesday in Albany County Supreme Court.
Six months after it was signed in May 2022, the state law opened a one-year window for adult survivors of sexual offenses to sue their alleged abusers, even if the statute of limitations on their claims had expired.
Cuomo is one of several high-profile figures who was sued in the winnowing hours before the law was set to expire Thursday at midnight.
The former governor has repeatedly and vehemently denied Commisso’s claims. His attorney Friday calling the lawsuit an attempted “cash grab.”
“Ms. Commisso’s claims are provably false, which is why the Albany District Attorney dismissed the case two years ago after a thorough investigation,” Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin told CNN in a statement. “Ms. Commisso’s transparent attempt at a cash grab will fail. We look forward to seeing her in court.”
The summons lists Cuomo, the State of New York, and another former Cuomo aide as defendants and is seeking damages for the “substantial personal injuries and economic loss plaintiff suffered.”
State report triggered Cuomo’s resignation
Commisso was one of the women who spoke to investigators hired by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by the former governor. The report triggered the eventual resignation of Cuomo, which he announced on August 10, 2021, a week after it was released.
According to the state’s report, Commisso told investigators Cuomo grabbed her buttocks during hugs and a photo. The report also detailed an allegation, previously reported by the Albany Times Union, of an incident at the governor’s mansion in which Cuomo allegedly reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast.
In January 2022, an Albany City Court dismissed the forcible touching complaint after the district attorney declined to pursue it. After the county sheriff’s office filed the misdemeanor charge against Cuomo, Albany District Attorney David Soares filed a letter saying the charge was “impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court” despite finding Commisso “credible.”
The summons filed by Commisso this week says the former governor’s behavior allegedly included “unwelcome sexual advances” and “sexual comments” about her appearance and personal life. It also accuses Cuomo of assigning “humiliating and demeaning tasks, hugs, kisses,” as well as the incidents of sexual misconduct detailed in the 2021 state report.
It also claims she was subject to “objectively unreasonable and abusive” behavior, which she believed she was “required to suffer to maintain her employment.”
The summons alleges Commisso suffered retaliation after rejecting Cuomo’s attempt to engage in sexual acts, and for later reporting the behavior.
Commisso claims she was demoted by the then lieutenant governor, now governor, Kathy Hochul, removed from the front office, and moved to the “demeaning task of answering telephones” for Hochul’s office, according to the document.
Gov. Hochul is not a named defendant in the suit but is referenced in the summons description.
A spokesperson for Hochul, Avi Small, told CNN in a statement: “The claim regarding then-Lieutenant Governor Hochul is clearly a mistake, as she had no control over Executive Chamber personnel decisions. We can only assume this allegation is an error in the preparation of the summons.”
The State of New York is listed as a defendant, and CNN has reached out for comment.
Meanwhile, Politico – citing eight people who have talked to him or his inner circle – reported this week that Cuomo was gauging how viable a potential mayoral bid would be against the backdrop of a pending FBI investigation into New York City Mayor Eric Adams, which is focused on campaign money, favors and possible foreign influence.
News of Cuomo’s reignited political aspirations surfaced before Adams was accused of a 1993 sexual assault in a court document filed under the same Adult Survivors Act.
Adams has repeatedly and firmly denied the accusation and says he doesn’t recall ever meeting the woman.
In a statement to CNN, Commisso said: “It disgusts me that Andrew Cuomo is even considering running for public office in the wake of Mayor [Eric] Adams’ alleged sexual harassment when he himself will not accept responsibility or even acknowledge his sexual harassment of me, aside from numerous other victims, while the governor of our state.”
CNN’s Michelle Watson contributed to this report.
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