A 10th woman accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, claiming Monday that the Democrat kissed her aggressively on the cheeks at her home while touring flood-damaged areas in 2017.
Sherry Vill, 55, said Mr. Cuomo made the unwelcome advance on her when she was living in Greece, New York. She had invited the governor into her home to see the flood damage.
“That’s when the governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand and pulled me to him,” Mrs. Vill said. “He leaned down over me and kissed my cheek. I was holding my small dog in my arms, and I thought he was going to pet my dog. But instead, he went to squeeze between the dog … and kiss me on the other cheek in what I felt was a highly sexual manner.”
She said Mr. Cuomo kissed her again “in a very aggressive manner” while grabbing her face.
“I felt shocked and did not know what happened,” Mrs. Vill told reporters in an online press conference hosted by her lawyer, Gloria Allred. “I felt like he was coming on to me in my own home. I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one. I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Gov. Cuomo came to my home.”
Ms. Allred said she will report the incident to state Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat whose office is conducting an investigation of Mr. Cuomo with outside attorneys. The lawyer also showed a blurry photograph, taken from a video, in which the governor is leaning his face into Mrs. Vill’s face while his left hand is on her neck.
“She became the victim of the governor’s unwelcome and unconsented physical contact with her … grabbing her face and kissing her in 2017,” Ms. Allred said.
At least 10 women now have come forward since late February with claims that the governor groped, kissed or made suggestive sexual remarks toward them. Several of the women were working for the governor at the time of their encounters.
The women include Anna Ruch and former staffer Lindsey Boylan — who claim that Mr. Cuomo kissed them without their consent — and a third unidentified woman who says the governor reached under her blouse to grope her breast at the executive mansion.
Ms. James’ office has issued subpoenas to dozens of officials in Mr. Cuomo’s administration, including Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide.
The state Assembly is conducting also is conducting an impeachment investigation. Mr. Cuomo has rejected calls from numerous officials in both parties to resign, asking New Yorkers to await the outcome of the investigations.
The governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately or making sexual advances, although he has apologized if he unintentionally made any woman feel uncomfortable.
Mrs. Vill said the governor commented as he was leaving her house that she was “beautiful” and tried to explain the kissing as a cultural norm.
“He said, ‘That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks,’” Mrs. Vill said. “I felt shocked and didn’t understand what had just happened. But I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about the kissing. I am Italian, and in my family, family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss.”
Mrs. Vill said that after the governor kissed her, he invited her to attend another event with him in her town. She declined.
“I purposefully did not follow because I felt uncomfortable with what happened,” she said. “Then to top it all off, the governor sent me a letter and pictures. The whole thing made me feel nervous.”
Mrs. Vill says the governor’s actions “were highly disrespectful” and she was scared to come forward.
“I was always afraid to report it. I am still afraid of him,” she said.
Former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, has told investigators that in May 2019, Mr. Cuomo called her into his office to “get to know her and assess whether he could trust her,” according to her lawyer, Debra Katz. Ms. Bennett told investigators that Mr. Cuomo asked if she had a boyfriend and inquired about her past relationships with men, Ms. Katz said.
Ms. Katz, who attended her client’s testimony, said Mr. Cuomo also handed Ms. Bennett a copy of the lyrics to the Irish ballad “Danny Boy” and told her to memorize the song. He later allegedly ordered Ms. Bennett to perform the song in front of Ms. DeRosa and the director of the governor’s offices, Stephanie Benton, Ms. Katz said.