BROOKLYN (CN) — A state trooper whose testimony helped oust New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a sexual harassment scandal is now suing the former governor and his top aide Melissa DeRosa for gender discrimination and retaliation.
Identified only as “Trooper 1,” the plaintiff’s federal complaint details inappropriate conversations and touching by the disgraced Cuomo, 64, and accuses DeRosa of helping to cover up the harassment and later retaliating by accusing the trooper of extortion.
Though she wasn’t senior enough to be in Cuomo’s protective security detail, the governor insisted she join, the complaint says. “He then sexually harassed her.”
“He commented on her appearance (‘why don’t you wear a dress?’); wanted to kiss her (‘[c]an I kiss you?’); asked her to find him a girlfriend who could ‘handle pain;’ and steered their conversations towards sex (‘[w]hy would you want to get married? . . . your sex drive goes down’),” the 34-page complaint reads.
It goes on to say that Cuomo ran his finger down the center of the trooper’s spine, and said “Hey, you,” and on another occasion “placed the palm of his hand on her belly button and slid it across her waist to her right hip, where her gun was holstered.”
“Rather than accept responsibility, the Governor and his protectors have lashed out at the independent investigators and the Governor’s victims,” the trooper’s complaint reads, noting that Cuomo has recently tweeted that he plans to bring ethics charges against the investigators, and has “even threatened to seek criminal charges against his victims.”
The complaint also accuses DeRosa of helping to cover up incidents of harassment, including yelling at the editor of The Times Union for asking about Trooper 1’s transfer to Cuomo’s protective detail.
Three months after the initial sexual harassment report, James released interview transcripts that included the trooper’s sworn testimony in which she said she had seen Cuomo and DeRosa “making out on the sidewalk like high schoolers.”
DeRosa denied the trooper’s account in a Nov. 12, 2021 tweet.
“As a young woman who has worked at the highest levels of government and politics, I’m used to other people making up and spreading rumors about me,” DeRosa wrote. “However, it’s absolutely beyond the pale for this trooper, who by her own admission I barely knew — who has already attempted to extort me for money — to make these false accusations based on false rumors and for them to be printed in a newspaper.”
The statement went on to hint at possible legal action.
“Not only is this ludicrous, it’s hurtful, and potentially actionable,” DeRosa wrote.
Trooper 1’s complaint says DeRosa’s accusation of extortion was retaliatory and followed a demand letter from the trooper’s attorney asserting her legal rights.
The complaint alleges discrimination and retaliation against both named defendants and the New York State Police.
Paul Schectman, attorney for Melissa DeRosa, reiterated that DeRosa and Trooper 1 barely knew each other.
“We are only aware of this case from Twitter, but according to the trooper’s own testimony Melissa’s only interaction with her was to say ‘hello and goodbye.’ It is not a viable case anywhere in America and is beyond frivolous,” Schectman, of the firm Bracewell LLP, wrote in a statement emailed to Courthouse News.
Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s spokesman, doubled down on the notation that Trooper 1 tried to get money out of the former state leaders.
“Gov Cuomo will fight every attempt at cheap cash extortions and is anxious to have the dirty politics stop– we look forward to justice in a court of law,“ he wrote.
New York district attorneys have called the women’s stories credible and deeply troubling, but said the alleged conduct can’t be charged criminally. Azzopardi suggested the governor’s behavior detailed in the complaint isn’t problematic.
“If kissing someone on the cheek, patting someone on the back or stomach or waving hello at a public event on New Year’s Eve is actionable then we are all in trouble,” Azzopardi wrote.
The New York State Police said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Wigdor LLP represents the plaintiff, who has already filed a motion to proceed under a pseudonym.
“Trooper 1 simply wishes to vindicate her legal rights and move forward with her life. We respectfully ask that the media respect our client’s desire for privacy at this time,” reads a statement by attorney Valdi Licul.
He later added, “Given the threats and victim-shaming that Trooper 1 has faced after she testified truthfully about being sexually harassed in the workplace by the former Governor, she has made the decision to proceed with this lawsuit anonymously with the hope that she can vindicate her legal rights and move on with her life.”