The lawyer defending former Gov. Andrew Cuomo against multiple sexual harassment allegations leveled some accusations of her own Thursday.
Attorney Rita Glavin held a virtual press conference where she alleged that one of Cuomo’s accusers got “more than professional” with the state’s economic development czar — and later used a special, super-secret messaging app to threaten him.
Glavin said evidence recently turned over to her by state Attorney General Letitia James revealed that Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky told investigators about a time in late 2017 when he and Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan, then his chief of staff, were “more than professional.”
“I’ll leave it at that,” Glavin said of Zemsky’s admission at her own virtual press conference. Cuomo was not in attendance.
But Glavin later said that “there had been some rumors and concerns about their relationship within ESD” sparked by employees “having witnessed some conduct that gave them concern.”
Then-ESD counsel Alphonso David “had them both in and questioned them, and they both denied having ever had some type of improper relationship,” Glavin said.
But when Boylan and Zemsky were questioned by James’ investigators, she said, “my read of the testimony is that they’re not consistent with each other.”
Glavin also said Boylan later used the Confide app — which sends encrypted text messages that self-destruct and can’t be captured in screenshots — to contact Zemsky after he and other officials disputed her allegation that Cuomo asked her to play strip poker during a flight on his official jet.
“I can’t wait to destroy your life, your [sic] s–t follower,” Boylan allegedly told Zemsky, according to Glavin.
“And I presume Ms. Boylan is referring to herself and knowing something about Mr. Zemsky.”
After getting Boylan’s text, Zemsky “changed his story” but she was never questioned by James’ investigators about sending it or using the app, Glavin said during a nearly two-hour, virtual news conference.
“The AG had evidence that Ms. Boylan was tampering with a witness, trying to get him to corroborate her and threatened to destroy his life if he didn’t,” she said.
Boylan’s attorney, Julie Gerchik, said, “The former governor and his attorney are continuing their smear campaign of Ms. Boylan to punish her for being the first of multiple women to expose the governor’s misconduct.
Continued Gerchik, “In addition to the Attorney General’s findings, the New York State Assembly hired one of New York’s top law firms to conduct an independent investigation and they concluded that there was ‘overwhelming support that the former Governor engaged in multiple instances of misconduct.’ The facts and two independent investigative reports speak for themselves.”
Glavin also accused James of ignoring a suit against Hamilton College that she said raised credibility questions about Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett, who Glavin said was accused in court papers of falsely accusing a fellow student there of sexual misconduct.
“We know now through discovery that the attorney general was well aware of this Hamilton College lawsuit and Ms. Bennett’s claim, which she withdrew,” Glavin said.
“Why didn’t the AG ask Ms. Bennett about those allegations? Why didn’t she ask about the lawsuit?… There was evidence of falsity and she withdrew those allegations.”
Glavin alleged that the treatment of Boylan and Bennett was part of a plan by James to force Cuomo from office by releasing the bombshell, Aug. 3 report that accused him of sexually harassing 11 women, including nine current or former state employees, then seek to replace him in the November election.
Bennett’s attorney Debra Katz responded, “Rita Glavin knows that what she is pedaling to discredit Charlotte Bennett is baseless. And she also knows that the conclusions reached by the AG and the NY State Assembly are unassailable. This is just the latest desperate act by the Governor.”
Cuomo announced his resignation on Aug. 10 and James declared her candidacy for governor on Oct. 29, but she dropped out about six weeks later and said she’d instead seek reelection as AG.
Glavin, a former US Justice Department official, on Thursday all but accused James of professional misconduct and suggested that Cuomo would take legal action if she didn’t hire “truly independent investigators” and revise her report against him.
“I implore the attorney general to do the right thing,” Glavin said.
But a James spokesperson dismissed Glavin’s remarks, saying in a prepared statement, ““Another day, another attempt by the former governor to attack the brave women who called out his abuse.”
“Thousands of pages of transcripts, exhibits, videos, and other evidence have already been publicly released, but these lies continue in an effort to mask the truth: Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women,” the statement said.
“There is a mountain of evidence to support these findings, which were corroborated by the Assembly’s report and deemed credible by multiple DAs. New Yorkers are tired of these excuses.”
Also during her marathon news conference — which at times seemed more like the closing defense argument after a months-long trial — Glavin repeatedly attacked the news media for its coverage of the allegations against Cuomo and accused lawmakers of rushing to judgment against him.
But Glavin never acknowledged that government leaders are held to higher standards than private citizens, although she admitted at one point, “I’m not an elected official, I don’t have to run for reelection.”
James’ report prompted at least five district attorneys across the state to open criminal investigations into incidents that allegedly took place within their jurisdictions.
But Cuomo has so far escaped prosecution in three counties, even though officials there all described his accusers as “credible.”
The most serious case involved former aide Brittany Commisso, 33, who alleged that Cuomo groped her inside Albany’s Executive Mansion on Dec. 7, 2020.
In October, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple filed a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching against Cuomo, but it was dismissed last week after Albany County DA David Soares concluded that “we cannot meet our burden at trial.”
DAs in Nassau and Westchester also said the incidents that took place in their counties — which included the alleged unwanted kissing and touching of women, including a female state trooper assigned to Cuomo’s protective detail — didn’t amount to crimes under state law.
On Friday, CNN reported that former Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., shortly before leaving office on Dec. 31, decided not to pursue a case against Cuomo over allegations he ran his finger down the trooper’s back and touched an unidentified woman’s buttocks while they were posing for a photograph.
A spokesperson for new Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg declined to comment Thursday, but a source familiar with the matter confirmed Vance’s decision.
In addition to forcing Cuomo from office, the sexual harassment scandal led to last month’s firing of his younger brother, Chris Cuomo, as the host of CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” program after James released records that revealed he contacted news industry “sources” about potentially damaging reports and tried to dig up dirt on at least one accuser.
While reviewing that material, CNN was informed about an unrelated allegation of sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo during his earlier employment by ABC News and “saw no reason to delay taking immediate action,” the network said at the time.
Chris Cuomo has said through a spokesman that “these apparently anonymous allegations are not true.”
Additional reporting by Tamar Lapin