A woman described in detail Monday how Gov. Andrew Cuomo grabbed her face, “manhandled” her and forcibly kissed her while touring her flood-damaged home in 2017 — saying he did so in a “highly sexual manner.”
“The whole thing was so strange and inappropriate and still makes me nervous and afraid because of his power and position,” said Sherry Vill, a 55-year-old married mother of three, as she spoke out in an afternoon briefing alongside lawyer Gloria Allred.
The alleged encounter occurred in May 2017, while Cuomo was touring Greece, NY, which had recently been ravaged by floods.
Vill, whose property was among those damaged, invited Cuomo into her home and expressed dismay at its condition.
“That’s when the governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand and pulled me to him,” 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.”
Cuomo tried to explain the inappropriate contact as a cultural norm.
“He said, ‘That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks,’” recalled Vill.
“I felt shocked and didn’t understand what had just happened,” said Vill. “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.”
On his way out, Cuomo “stopped, he turned to me and said, ‘You are beautiful,’” according to Vill.
“That made me feel even more uncomfortable,” said Vill. “I felt as though he was coming on to me in my own home.”
Cuomo again allegedly grabbed Vill’s face and kissed her on the cheek outside the home — in front of Vill’s son, who was recording the governor’s visit and caught an image of the contact, displayed at the virtual briefing.
“I felt like I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my face again,” said Vill.
Vill noted that Cuomo is approximately 6 feet tall, while she stands only about 5 feet.
“He towered over me,” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”
Days after the interaction, a member of the governor’s staff left Vill a voicemail asking her if she would like to attend an upcoming event with the governor, Vill said.
She did not respond to the call.
Vill also later received a signed letter from the governor, sent along with two photographs of him shaking her hand inside the home.
“Look what the governor sent me in the mail…,” wrote Vill in a 2017 Facebook post of the package.
Following the press briefing, Allred and Vill will reach out to state Attorney General Letitia James to inform her that Vill is willing to cooperate with an investigation.
However, Allred said that at this time, she did not intend to reach out to the state Assembly about its own ongoing investigation, or file a civil suit against the governor.
Allred and Vill also chose to reserve judgment on whether Cuomo should resign as governor, saying that the investigations should first run their course.
Vill joins nine other women — most of them current or former Cuomo staffers — who have publicly accused the governor of sexual harassment or misconduct since late February.
They include two women — former staffer Lindsey Boylan and Anna Ruch — who allege that Cuomo kissed them without their consent, and a third who alleges that Cuomo reached under her blouse to grope her breast.
The allegation of the latter victim, a current staffer who has not been publicly identified, has been referred to Albany police.
While Cuomo has admitted to and apologized for inappropriate workplace remarks, he has strongly denied touching anyone inappropriately.
In doing so, he has adamantly refused calls to resign, even as dozens of Democratic lawmakers including both of New York’s US senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have taken up the cause.
While refusing to step down of his own volition, Cuomo faces one investigation organized by James, and another from the state Assembly as a prelude to impeachment proceedings.
Cuomo’s office has not responded to requests for comment on Monday’s newest allegations.