One of the first women to accuse former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment filed a federal lawsuit against him this week.
Charlotte Bennett, a one-time staffer for Cuomo, is suing him for sexual harassment and discrimination.
Bennett has previously spoken publicly about her time working for the former governor as a briefer between 2019 and 2020. In her suit filed Wednesday, Bennett claims that Cuomo made sexual comments about her appearance, gave her “humiliating and demeaning tasks” and asked her invasive and unwanted questions about her romantic and sexual relationships, as well as her history as a sexual assault survivor.
The accusations in Bennett’s suit were prominently featured in an August 2021 report filed by New York state Attorney General Letitia James. Her investigation, conducted at Cuomo’s request, backed up Bennett’s claims and ultimately alleged that he had sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo resigned under pressure one week after James made his investigators’ findings public, ending his decade-long stint as governor. He was replaced by then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is now running for a first full term in the top job.
In the aftermath of his departure, Cuomo has repeatedly sought to undermine the probe that led to his resignation and disputed accounts from alleged victims and other witnesses. He has also accused James of running a biased investigation and, earlier this week, filed an ethics complaint against her.
In her lawsuit, Bennett alleges that after her reported Cuomo’s sexual harassment and expressed fear of retaliation by the then-governor, she was moved to an “inferior position” in a different department. She wasn’t interviewed about her allegations until weeks later, the suit claims, and Executive Chamber staff did not refer her sexual harassment complaint to the appropriate department for investigation.
“Ultimately, Ms. Bennett was forced into an involuntary resignation from her employment with the State because her work environment had become intolerable,” the suit claims.
Rita Glavin, an attorney for Cuomo, said the former governor continues to deny Bennett’s allegations.
“The Governor has always said he didn’t harass anyone and with each day that goes by more and more information is uncovered showing how evidence favorable to the Governor was suppressed and crucial facts ignored or omitted that undermined witness credibility,” Glavin said in a statement to CNN in response to the lawsuit.
Debra Katz, an attorney for Bennett, referred to Glavin’s remark as “an ongoing form of retaliation.”
In her suit, Bennett claims that she experienced “near-debilitating anxiety,” symptoms of depression and more as a direct result of Cuomo’s alleged harassment.
On Tuesday, Cuomo filed an ethics complaint against James and the two investigators she hired, accusing them of knowingly leaving out information in their report that questioned their witnesses’ credibility and allowing errors in the report to go uncorrected.
Cuomo’s ethics complaint claims there are discrepancies between what Bennett told the governor’s special counsel and chief of staff about her interactions with the then-governor in the summer of 2020, and what she subsequently told the attorney general’s investigators.
“Ms. Bennett never suggested to the Special Counsel in her conversations that I had ever made sexual advances toward her,” Cuomo said in his complaint. “In fact, when asked if I ever made a sexual advance, Ms. Bennett replied, ‘No.'”
In her lawsuit, Bennett claims that after providing hours of testimony and producing hundreds of pages of documents for the investigation, Cuomo “used his media platform to portray her as a liar and sought to undermine her credibility.”
Also named in the suit are former Cuomo aides Melissa DeRosa, Judith Mogul and Jill DeRosiers. CNN reached out to them for comment.
“My career as a public servant was abruptly cut short because of Governor Cuomo’s and his top aides’ sexual harassment and retaliation against me after I complained about Governor Cuomo’s misconduct. They must all be held accountable for their actions,” Bennett said in a statement.
Bennett is seeking damages for economic loss, loss of future professional opportunities and loss of future income, as well as emotional distress.