Taxpayers must shoulder the cost of defending former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a lawsuit accusing him of sexually harassing a state trooper, a judge ruled Friday.
The former three-term Democrat sued New York Attorney General Letitia James in August to overturn her office’s refusal to cover him in a Brooklyn federal lawsuit alleging he made suggestive comments and inappropriately touched a state trooper on her stomach and back.
The former governor claimed the sex harassment accusations were made while he was governor — entitling him to a state-funded defense.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler sided with Cuomo, agreeing the state should pay Cuomo’s legal bills in a federal lawsuit.
“This court grants the petition and requires that there be a defense,” Hagler said after more than two hours of oral arguments via video Friday.
“[Cuomo’s] view is that everything he did was within the scope of his employment and he was just acting as the governor … when addressing trooper 1 in a friendly manner,” Hagler said. “Did he go over the line? That is not clear cut.”
Hagler said since Cuomo has denied the allegations, the case has to play out in court with either a judge or jury determining if Cuomo sexually harassed the state trooper — and that his state-funded defense can’t be denied.
“The allegations are quite disturbing,” Hagler said. “They should not be tolerated in the work place, if true.”
Earlier, lawyers on both sides argued about whether Cuomo was acting within his duty as governor when the alleged harassment occurred, entitling him to a free defense.
AG attorney Andrew Amer said his office denied the legal coverage because “all of the conduct was to serve [Cuomo’s] own self-interest” rather than while he was carrying out his duties as governor.
Cuomo’s lawyer Theresa Trzaskoma, however, fired back, “These are not allegations where the conduct occurred while they were off duty. These are work place allegations.”
After the judge’s ruling, Trzaskoma said she was “grateful that the court corrected the Attorney General’s unlawful decision.”
At prior oral arguments last month, Hagler seemed to indicate he was leaning in favor of granting Cuomo’s lawsuit.
“While we disagree with the judge’s decision, we respect it. We are reviewing the decision and any potential next steps.”
Cuomo, 65, resigned in August 2021 amid the AG’s investigation into claims he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women.
Other scandals that had emerged prior to the sex harassment allegations included Cuomo’s alleged coverup of COVID-19 nursing home deaths, and his alleged use of staff to write a book on the pandemic. He’s denied the allegations.
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