Legal Law

The Biden Administration Declares Cuomo May Be a Brutal, Serial Sexual Harasser … Or Not – JONATHAN TURLEY

It takes a lot to get me to raise fairness concerns over former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. I was highly critical of Cuomo in his dismissal of the rights of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation fight when Cuomo not only insisted that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford must be believed but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph examination. However, Cuomo has legitimate objections to a new Justice Department finding that he sexually harassed 13 women over an eight-year period.

The finding came in an agreement with the office of Gov. Kathy Hochul to resolve an investigation into violations of Title VII of sexual discrimination and retaliation between 2013 and 2021.

There was an ample basis for such an investigation, including prior testimony of the women involved in these incidents. However, the Justice Department did not interview Cuomo, according to his counsel. Instead, it relied heavily on the investigation of New York Attorney General Latitia James who is an outspoken critic of Cuomo. Likewise, Hochul’s office is not eager to see Cuomo run again for office. Finally, he has been a critic of the Biden Administration, particularly calling out President Biden for his mismanagement of the border.

That does not mean that there were no violations. Sexual harassment and even assault have been alleged by a significant number of women. They have given evidence in criminal investigations and spoken to state investigators.

However, in 2022, Albany County District Attorney David Soares dropped a criminal complaint against Cuomo for lack of evidence. Later five additional criminal cases were dropped. He is facing pending civil litigation over the allegations of sexual assault.

What is concerning is the government making a declaration of “a pattern or practice of discrimination against female employees based on sex” without giving Cuomo an opportunity to rebut those allegations.

Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general in the agency’s civil rights division declared that “the conduct in the Executive Chamber under the former governor, the state’s most powerful elected official, was especially egregious because of the stark power differential involved and the victims’ lack of avenues to report and redress harassment.”

The Justice Department can argue that it was looking at the hostile environment at the Governor’s office, an allegation supported by many women. However, it makes the specific claim on 12 incidents of such abuse by the former governor, a declaration already being widely reported as a type of adjudication. 

What is striking is that the report does not give details on the individual cases or findings on their underlying claims. Moreover, it states that the agreement “shall not constitute an adjudication or finding on the merits of the case.”

If that is the case, how was it fair to make a finding that Cuomo is a serial sexual harasser without interviewing him or establishing the underlying truth of the allegations against him? It seems to be declaring that Cuomo harassed a dozen women while saying that he might not have. Few will read or understand that caveat. It is a non-finding finding that will be reported as an adjudicated fact.

James’ office dismissed such objections and declared that Cuomo is now officially a serial assaulter of women:  “Andrew Cuomo can continue to deny the truth and attack these women, but the facts do not lie.”

Again, I hold no brief for Andrew Cuomo. However, the Justice Department’s conclusion appears long on conclusions and short on due process in making such a non-finding finding.

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