Former NY Gov. Cuomo sues NY AG James over refusal to turn over records from sexual harassment investigative report

 January 21, 2024

Former Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned under pressure in August 2021 that stemmed directly from a damning report released a week earlier by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James that accused Cuomo of having sexually harassed at least 11 current and former female state employees.

Cuomo has now filed a lawsuit to force James to turn over all of the records underlying that report so that he can fully defend himself from two separate lawsuits filed against him that are based in large part on the AG's report, according to the Associated Press.

The former governor's lawsuit in state court follows multiple efforts over the past few years to obtain the records through other means that have all been rebuffed and denied by the attorney general's office.

Cuomo seeking records underlying James' investigative report

In former Gov. Cuomo's 26-page filing on Thursday, his legal team outlined the prior unsuccessful efforts to obtain a "narrow subset of materials" that formed the basis underlying AG's James investigation and subsequent report that accused him of sexually harassing nearly a dozen alleged victims.

Those materials include witness statements, transcribed and videotaped interviews, and internal memos related to those statements and interviews.

Cuomo's legal team asserted that all of those materials were necessary to fully defend against two lawsuits filed against the former governor by alleged victims whose filed complaints extensively cited the investigative report from AG James.

The attorney general's office has refused to hand the materials over, however, for a variety of different reasons including assorted claims of privilege, such as attorney-client privilege and work-product privilege, that Cuomo's legal team argued are inapplicable.

James has "steadfastly refused" to comply with repeated requests

"Governor Cuomo has repeatedly asked the OAG for the Requested Materials since the Report was released more than two years ago, but Respondent James has steadfastly refused to produce that evidence despite her August 3, 2021, public promise to release it," the filing stated.

Indeed, over the past few years, James has delayed, denied, or outright ignored, multiple requests, federal subpoenas, and Freedom of Information Law filings for the materials that she has refused to turn over to the former governor's legal team.

As for the investigative report from AG James that was derived from the sought-after records, it was described in Cuomo's lawsuit as being "materially inaccurate, incomplete, biased, flawed and misleading" in its findings that the former governor had sexually harassed nearly a dozen current and former state employees.

"The Report was a one-sided, deeply flawed ambush of Governor Cuomo, who denies having sexually harassed anyone," the lawsuit asserted. "In numerous instances, the Report accepted as true certain highly suspect allegations, even though the investigators had not thoroughly probed those allegations and ignored material evidence that undermined the allegations and credibility of complainants."

It's "sad that the courts are needed to step in" to settle dispute

The New York Daily News, which is locked in its own legal battle against AG James to obtain the same materials and was mentioned repeatedly throughout the lawsuit, reported on former Gov. Cuomo's lawsuit and how it, too, had seen its FOIL requests for the investigation's records denied by the attorney general.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, told the outlet that James had "done everything she can to hide" the requested materials from the general public, despite her prior promises to release all of it, and added that it was "sad that the courts are needed to step in and order the state’s top lawyer to stop violating the law."

The attorney general's office declined a request for comment and simply directed the Daily News to review a July 2023 ruling from a federal judge that rejected one of Cuomo's prior efforts to obtain the sought-after materials.

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