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Upstate woman said Gov. Cuomo forced kisses on her cheek

Upstate woman said Gov. Cuomo forced kisses on her cheek Photo: Gloria Allred.

AP
Updated: March 29, 2021 11:30 PM
Created: March 29, 2021 11:51 AM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York woman said Monday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her cheek at her home during a visit to inspect local flood damage, becoming the latest woman to accuse the embattled governor of inappropriate behavior.

Sherry Vill made the allegations during a Zoom news conference with attorney Gloria Allred, describing a spring 2017 visit to her Rochester-area home after flooding near Lake Ontario.

Cuomo kissed her cheek in front of family members while inspecting her flood-damaged home in what Vill, who has been married for decades, felt was a "highly sexual manner." He kissed her cheek again outside her home in a "very aggressive manner," Vill said.

"I felt like I was being manhandled," said Vill, now 55. Vill, who is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, said the governor towered over her.

There was no immediate comment from the Cuomo administration.

DIGITAL EXTRA: Watch part of the press conference with Sherry Vill and Gloria Allred

A series of women, some who worked for Cuomo, have accused him of making inappropriate comments about their looks, giving them unwanted hugs or kisses, or making comments they interpreted as gauging their interest in an affair. Among his accusers are two aides who still work in the governor’s office. One, who has yet to speak publicly, reportedly said the governor groped her at the Executive Mansion last summer.

Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately but said he’s sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable. The Democratic governor has brushed off widespread calls for his resignation and asked that people wait for the results of an investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James.

Allred said Vill would cooperate with James' investigation.

The state Assembly is conducting a separate investigation into whether there are grounds to impeach the governor.

The accusation Monday has similarities to allegations made by Anna Ruch, who told The New York Times that Cuomo touched her face and back and asked to kiss her moments after they met at a wedding reception.

Gov. Cuomo's attorney Rita Glavin released the following statement:

"During times of crisis, the Governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses.  As I have said before, the Governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years. I encourage everyone to look at other photographs from his visit to Greece, NY that day. https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/albums/72157681436495503/with/34167299663/  

Nothing described at today's press conference was unique in that regard.  Three other related points concerning Gloria Alfred's press conference:  (1) the July 19, 2017 letter from the Governor that Ms. Allred displayed was a nearly identical follow-up form letter sent to more than 30 people that the Governor visited to support and assist following the Lake Ontario flooding, and those form letters were signed with an autopen; (2)  it is a practice of the Governor’s office to send signed photos to people he meets with after events, and those photos are regularly signed with an autopen; (3) it is common for staffers to contact constituents after events and invite them to a future event on a related topic."

ALBANY - Two separate series of photographs were released to the public on Monday afternoon: one set came from the Law Office of Gloria Allred, who represents a woman from Greece, New York named Sherry Vill; the other from the Law Office of Rita Glavin, who has been hired by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The pictures document a trip by Governor Cuomo to survey flood damage to western New York in May 2017. Many of the photos depict Cuomo hugging, kissing, touching, and consoling residents who had been impacted by flood waters that had overflowed Lake Ontario into residential neighborhoods and basements.

On May 27, 2017, Mr. Cuomo visited the Vill family home. Sherry Vill says during that visit, the Governor "manhandled" her.

"That Governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand, and pulled me to him," she said, during a Zoom news conference Monday afternoon, hosted by her Attorney Gloria Allred. "He leaned down over me and he kissed my cheek and what I felt was highly sexual manner. I wasn't expecting that at all."

Vill, who was 51 at the time, is the mother of three. She has one grandchild.

"He said that's what Italians do, kiss both cheeks," she continued, "I felt shocked and didn't understand what had just happened but I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about his kissing me."

At the time Vill says family members convinced her not to go public, fearing retaliation from the Governor. 

Several weeks later, the Governor's office sent Vill a signed letter thanking her for her hospitality and promising to continue to provide flood relief to her community. 

On Monday, the Governor's Lawyer Rita Glavin released additional photos from the 2017 flood inspection trip that depicted lots of hugging, kissing, and face touching involving others who don't appear to be offended.

"What Sherry has described has been disturbing to her ever since she became the victim of the Governor's unwelcome and unconsented-to physical contact with her," Allred stated.

Allred says she intends to contact the New York Attorney General so that her client can be part of the investigation that already includes either other accusers.

"Sherry is very brave to have made the decision to break her silence," Allred said, "She is supported in her decision by many family, some of whom are witnesses to what the Governor did to Sherry."

Meanwhile, Glavin issued a statement Monday afternoon that read:

"During times of crisis, the Governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses. As I have said before, the Governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years. I encourage everyone to look at other photographs from his visit to Greece, NY that day."


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