Mar 29, 2021
Gloria Allred Press Conference with Andrew Cuomo Accuser Transcript March 29
Attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference on March 29, 2021 with Sherry Vill, a women accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Gloria Allred: (01:02)
Okay. Thank you everybody for joining us at today’s press conference. I’m Attorney Gloria Allred, and with me is Sherry Vill. I’m going to be reading a statement and then Ms. Vill will be reading her statement. I will also be taking questions. Sherry will not be taking any questions. I will also be showing you some photographs. I will be holding them up to the screen. In addition, after the question and answer period, we will also screen share the photographs which I am showing you. This will all, of course, be available to you, including the recording, after the press conference, most likely within an hour after the press conference. So thank you very much for coming. And today, I am here with a woman who, according to reports, may be the 10th woman to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate sexual conduct.
Gloria Allred: (02:14)
Sherry Vill is 55 years old and she’s a resident of New York State. She is a business woman, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She has been married for more than 30 years and she has three children. She also has one grandchild. What Sherry will describe has been disturbing to her ever since she became the victim of the Governor’s unwelcome and unconsented to physical contact with her, which included, but was not limited to, grabbing her face and kissing her in 2017. For years, she wanted to report what Governor Cuomo did to her, but some members of her family discouraged her from filing a complaint because they wanted to protect her. And they fear that if she made what happened to her public, that the Governor might use his power to retaliate against her and her family. For that reason, Sherry made the difficult decision to remain silent. Recently however, Sherry decided that the people of New York deserve to know the truth, and that Governor Cuomo should be held accountable for what he has done.
Gloria Allred: (03:33)
For that reason, she has decided to break her silence and overcome her fear by speaking truth to power. She feels that it’s never too late to do the right thing, and that is why she’s speaking out today. After our press conference today, we plan to contact the New York Attorney General’s office in order to inform them that Sherry is willing to cooperate in the investigation that is currently being conducted into numerous allegations of sexual harassment by the Governor. Sherry is very brave to have made the decision to break her silence. She is supported in her decision by many members of her family, some of whom were witnesses to what the Governor did to Sherry, and who also felt that what the Governor did was very surprising and not appropriate.
Gloria Allred: (04:28)
Given what Sherry alleges and what other accusers have alleged, many people are wondering if Sherry thinks that Governor Cuomo should resign. Her answer is very simple. Sherry feels that there should be a full and fair investigation of all of the allegations against the Governor, and then the report should be made public. After the Governor is afforded due process and the report is published, then Sherry will make the decision as to what actions she thinks should be taken against the Governor. Women like Sherry will no longer be silent. They will refuse to be intimidated by powerful men. We are very proud of Sherry and we look forward to due process, not only for the Governor, but also for those who allege that they have been victimized by him. And now it’s my pleasure to introduce Sherry Vill. Sherry.
Sherry Vill: (05:29)
Good afternoon. It was spring of 2017. I lived in Greece, New York, a suburb of Rochester. Lake Ontario had flooded our homes on the lake shore. On Monday, May 28, 2017, Governor Cuomo planned a visit to our neighborhood to survey damages and have a press conference. I came home from work to see all the commotion going on. I was asked by a staffer if I would allow Governor to come into my home, view our damages, and I agreed. Governor Cuomo went into my house with my husband’s son, along with his staff and some town officials. I came in shortly afterward. And when I walked in, I said to the Governor, “Do you think that we have to live like this?” That’s when the governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand, and pulled me to him. 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 wedged his face between the dog and mine and kissed me on the other cheek and what I felt was highly sexual manner.
Sherry Vill: (06:45)
I wasn’t expecting that at all. He said, “That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks.” I felt shocked and didn’t understand what had just happened, but I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about his kissing me. I am Italian, and in my family, family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss, especially upon meeting someone for the first time. The Governor’s staff started to walk out of the house. Governor Cuomo lagged behind them. He stopped, he turned to me and said, “You are beautiful.” That made me feel even more uncomfortable. I felt as though he was coming on to meet in my own home. The Governor and his staff proceeded to view the damages outside of the house. I purposely did not follow because I felt uncomfortable given what had just happened in my living room. I walked out the front door and stayed in the front of the house, away from them.
Sherry Vill: (07:49)
After seeing the damages, the Governor then circled to the front of the house where I was standing. He then approached me. He took my hand and said, “Is there anything else you want?” I didn’t know how to respond. He then leaned down on top of me, and while still holding one of my hands, he forcibly grabbed my face with his other big hand and kissed my cheek, again in a very aggressive manner. I felt like I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my cheek again. I could not use my other hand to stop him because he did it so quickly and I also was holding my dog with my other hand. The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable. I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbors.
Sherry Vill: (08:52)
He is almost six feet tall. I’m five feet tall. He towered over me. There was nothing I could do. When the Governor left, I thought the craziness was over. However, to my surprise, within days, I received a call on my voicemail from the Governor’s staff. The woman on the other end said Governor Cuomo was having an event in town, naming the place and the time, and asked if I’d like to attend. Notably, she did not say my husband and I or my family and I, only specifically me. I purposely did not respond to the invitation. I felt very uneasy about the call. I was the only one that received the call in the personal invite from the Governor. Then, to top it off, the Governor sent me a letter and pictures. The pictures were featured, the governor and me. And the letter was addressed only to me. More alarms going off. The whole thing was so strange and inappropriate and still makes me nervous and afraid because of his power and position.
Sherry Vill: (10:05)
This has had a long-term effect on me. My neighbors and customers kept saying I was the Governor’s new girlfriend and other similar comments, which I did not like at all. I have been in business for many years and routinely interact with male customers and vendors. I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one. I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Governor Cuomo came to my home. His actions were very overly sexual, highly inappropriate, and disrespectful to me and my family. The Governor’s actions have continued to bother me, and I have expressed that to my family many times in intervening years. However, I was always afraid to report it. I am still afraid of him, but I am no longer willing to remain silent. And that is why I am coming forward today.
Gloria Allred: (11:10)
Thank you very much, Sherry. And now I’d like to display some photographs that were taken that day. This is a photograph of Governor Cuomo inside of Sherry’s home, holding her hand. The person that you see with a hat on is her son, Al Jr. Vill. And he is recording. So that’s Sherry and the Governor. The next photo is also taken inside of her home.
Gloria Allred: (12:01)
Also, taken inside of her home is a better photograph of the Governor’s face. Again, he is holding her hand and I’m showing you that. And now I will also show you the next photo, which is the letter that the governor signed and sent to Sherry. And that’s the letter to which she just referred. And the letter says, Cherryville… We have deleted her address, but it does say Rochester, New York with the zip code. “Dear Mrs. Vill, it was a pleasure to meet you recently. Thank you very much again, for your hospitality. We will continue to do all we can to provide relief and support to you and your fellow homeowners while strengthening the local infrastructure against future flooding. Thank you for your partnership. Without question cooperation is more important than ever in times like these, I look forward to continuing our work to ensure a stronger, safer future for the local community, with warmest regards and best wishes. Sincerely Andrew M. Cuomo.”
Gloria Allred: (13:36)
It’s dated July 19th, 2017. It’s on the stationary of State of New York Executive Chamber, Albany, Andrew M. Cuomo Governor. And now I will show you the photo of the governor kissing Sherry. The photo of the kiss is a little bit blurred, and we apologize for that. And the reason that it’s blurred is on the day of the Governor’s visit to Sherry’s home. Her son was taking the video as I just described to you and as is seen in the photograph, and essentially as the governor was going inside and outside, her son was taking video. Then when he came outside and he actually saw the Governor kissing his mother, his video was still going. After he posted that video for a very brief time, his sister, Sherry’s daughter took a still photo of the video of the kiss. And that is why it’s a little blurred because it’s a still photo taken from a video.
Gloria Allred: (15:01)
So this is the photo of the Governor kissing Sherry outside of her house. On the bottom of the photo, you will see that it says the Governor kissing my mom at Rochester, New York. And you will see that when we display that on the screen as well. All right, thank you for viewing that. And now we will be happy to take some questions, just hit the Q&A and type in your question. And then I will read the question and I’ll be happy to see if we can answer them. I don’t see the questions yet, but I do see that two participants raised their hand. So if you’ll give me a moment please I’ll look at the chat and we will find the questions.
Gloria Allred: (16:16)
All right. First question is, “Do I consider this sexual harassment or even a potential criminal offense?” Technically, if a person touches another person with the intent to touch that person, it’s a battery, civil potentially criminal. We’re not focused on the criminal aspect at all today. We are focused on the investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office. So in no way, are we suggesting that the Governor should be prosecuted for what he did to Sherry. And that answers the next question, which is, “Was this an assault?” Technically, yes. Next question is, have I been in contact with the New York attorney General’s office and its investigation? Not yet is the answer to that question, but we plan to contact them this afternoon.
Gloria Allred: (17:43)
The next question is that Sherry indicated that she was afraid to come forward earlier. Why? What was she afraid of? And I do believe that I answered that in my statement that the Governor’s a very powerful person in New York and her family was concerned about what might happen if she reported whether or not it would be something that would cause retaliation towards her or members of her family. So Sherry received the advice that it would be best not to report it at that time. Next question is that Governor Cuomo kissed her on her cheeks, did Governor Cuomo kiss you on your lips? And the answer is no. Next question is that the reporter is asking about the Governor’s staff calling Sherry after visiting her home. Does this demonstrate a pattern with Governor Cuomo, sending staffers to call women he’s interested in? The answer is at this time I only represent Sherry so I don’t want to speculate about a pattern in reference to Governor Cuomo’s staff in any context they may have made with other women. The reporter also inquires based on your allegations, Sherry, should Governor Cuomo resign? And I believe we also addressed that in my statement that we think there should be an investigation and Sherry will decide what she thinks may be the appropriate course of action what she thinks it should be after the current investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office has concluded and has been made public. Next question, “Is Sherry pressing charges or only letting the Attorney General know that she is willing to cooperate in her investigation?” She is only letting the Attorney General know that she is willing to cooperate in her investigation. The next question is, “Has Sherry alerted the Governor’s office of this incident?” No, this is the first notice of this incident. This is the first time that Sherry is speaking out about it.
Gloria Allred: (20:40)
Next question, “Based on my experience, does Governor Cuomo need a psychological evaluation?” I think that Governor Cuomo should be judged based on evidence of his conduct, conduct would include words and deeds, and it will be up to him if he feels that he needs any psychological evaluation. That’s not something that I would be in a position to opine about at this time. Next question, [inaudible 00:21:37] having filed any lawsuit or notice of claim against the Governor of New York State? Why or why not? The answer is no, we have not filed a lawsuit. No, we have not filed a claim. At this point, we haven’t planned to do that. The next question is, “Will we contact assembly investigators as well?” At this point, our plan is only to contact the Attorney General’s office and then be referred to their investigator.
Gloria Allred: (22:26)
Next question is, “What does Sherry think about people joking about her being the Governor’s new girlfriend in 2017?” It was very disturbing to Sherry because Sherry, as I said, has been married for 30 years and she takes her marriage vows seriously. Have Sherry or I been aware of any similar jokes about other women over time? I’m not aware of any similar jokes, there might’ve been, there might not have been. I don’t know, I’m not in a position to reach a conclusion about that. Was there just one attempt by Cuomo’s staff to contact Ms. Vill? I believe there was just one attempt, unless you would include the contact of sending the letter and the photos to her. I should point out, I don’t know if you saw, but you will see when you see this photo, that this photo is signed by the Governor, you will see at the top. It’s difficult to see it when I’m holding it, but it says, “God bless New York.” And then under it, it says, “Andrew Cuomo.” So it’s signed by him. The next question is, “Does Mrs. Vill recall who made that call to her?” No, she does…
Gloria Allred: (24:03)
The next question is, does Mrs. Vill recall who made that call to her? No, she does not. And the next question is, is this the first improper conduct case that I am involved with regarding governor Cuomo? And the answer is yes. Next question. What do I make of the numbers of women who have accused governor Cuomo a range of different accusations, what do you make of this case as someone who has a long history of defending women in sexual assault cases? Not exactly defending them, but representing women in sexual assault cases. I take it very seriously when there are a number of women who come forward against the same powerful man. And I believe from the beginning that there should be an investigation and now there are at least two investigations that I’m aware of. So I think that’s the appropriate course of conduct.
Gloria Allred: (25:14)
I’m also being asked what her son’s reaction was when this occurred. He’s not making any comment at this time and also, the other family members are not making any comment at this time. The next question is what does Sherry think about the governor’s statement that he has never touched anyone inappropriately and about his defense that he’s old fashioned? Sherry is not going to be commenting on that at this time. Next question, have I been contacted by other women reporting incidents involving Governor Cuomo? I never disclose who contacts me or does not contact me, or if anyone has contacted me because any such contacts with my office are confidential and attorney client privilege, and we protect the confidentiality of anyone who contacts me.
Gloria Allred: (26:27)
Next question is can Sherry tell us what her reaction was when other women who came forward after hearing their stories? She has no comment on that at this time. And then the next question is to clarify, was it two separate occasions during the same encounter that the governor kissed Mrs. Vill during the same event and the answer’s yes. So once inside of her home and then once outside of her home. Next question, have I been in touch with any other people with allegations regarding Governor Cuomo? No comment. And I think that is all of the questions that there are, there may be a few more. Did Sherry have any further contact with the governor or his office after Governor Cuomo’s letter? And the answer is no. Next question. Will I be representing any other women accusing the governor of inappropriate behavior? I have no comment.
Gloria Allred: (27:49)
Next question. I’m not sure, I may have answered. Will Sherry and I participate in the assembly judiciaries impeachment investigation? We have no plans for that at this time. Well, right now the focus is the New York Attorney General’s investigation. Next question. How did Sherry and I get in touch with each other? Did Sherry reach out to me for assistance? Yes, that’s how everyone has become my client in the last 45 years that I’ve been practicing law. Everyone reaches out to me. Sometimes someone else reaches out and says, “My friend wants to talk with you,” and then the friend reaches out. So what do I make of this case with a number of women making accusations and given that I have a long history of representing women in these cases. I am concerned is the answer. I’m very concerned.
Gloria Allred: (29:04)
The next question has to do with the family’s reaction at the time. Did anyone say anything to Governor Cuomo while he was there? I’m not commenting on what any member of her family said because I don’t represent any other member of her family, only Sherry. Next question is what led her daughter to post the photo of the kiss on Facebook? I can’t comment on that. Does Sherry or I have an opinion about this unwanted advance taking place during a response to a flood emergency? I think that would be more appropriately responded to by the governor. Next question. The governor has admitted since the beginning that he often hugs and kisses people to greet them, he says he never meant to offend people. Do I think that that is a defense to incidents like this? The answer is no. Next question is what did her family fear if she spoke out about this incident and we have no comment and answer to that question.
Gloria Allred: (30:29)
Next question. Many times the governor has excused his behavior as him being out of date with current standards. What do I make of those comments? The governor is an attorney. He’s the former attorney general of the State of New York. He is the employer of all State employees in the State of New York, both because he is an attorney and because he is an employer, he is required to take sexual harassment training. I, even though I file sexual harassment cases and have for more than four decades for victims of sexual harassment, I am also required because I am a New York attorney to take sexual harassment training, which I just did a few months ago. So I don’t think it is appropriate to say that a person is old fashioned or if anyone would say they didn’t understand what is expected.
Gloria Allred: (31:51)
I think the training is quite clear. But also, I think that one should understand that this is not, this sexual harassment issue is not just about an employer to employees, Sherry was not an employee. She certainly was a member of the public and New York resident and I think that all New York residents should also be treated with dignity and respect and they are not family members. They are members of the public, so that would be my response to that. I mean, sometimes I talk to children, like a little six-year-old girl, for example, and I will say, “May I hug you? Please understand that I don’t have any right to hug you unless you say, ‘It’s okay,’ unless I ask your permission and that’s true for any adult,” I tell the children. “No one can hug you without asking, ‘Is it okay if I hug you?'”
Gloria Allred: (33:10)
And I think that applies to adults with other adults as well. Boundaries are very important. Next question. Is the Vill family still in possession of the video shot by Mrs. Vill’s son on the day of the incident? Unfortunately, we are no longer in possession and her son is no longer in possession of the video. He deleted it a long time ago. He had his reasons, that was years ago. But fortunately, her daughter took the still shot from the video and that is why we have that still photo today. The governor has called kissing and hugging as quote, “His usual and customary way of greeting.” Does Sherry believe it is possible he did not know he was making her uncomfortable. We never know what’s in someone else’s mind and I think we generally draw conclusions from actions and I think that’s what’s important. Okay, why was he in Greece? It’s Greece, New York, not Greece, New York, that the reporter wrote, again, at Sherry’s house to view flood damage to her home?
Gloria Allred: (34:44)
And there were other homes also that had flood damage as a result of a flood from the lake. Did Sherry share her feelings with her husband? What was his reaction? Again, we’re not commenting on her husband’s reaction. Why is the AG’s investigation the focus for Sherry and not the assemblies as well? She’s made the decision she’s going to start with the AG’s investigation and then we’ll have to see what, if anything she’s willing to do after that. This is not easy for Sherry. As I said, she’s being very brave. She’s never been involved in a situation like this before, so we’re just taking this step by step. I’ll take just a couple more questions and then we want to show the photos. Many of Governor Cuomo’s fierce supporters and partisans claim the detailed accusations by numerous women are a [inaudible 00:35:50] scandal being concocted to politically harm a high profile Democrat. They allude to this being a pro-Trump plot or something similar. What do I make of these kinds of comments? Well, my answer is as most people know …
Gloria Allred: (36:03)
Kinds of comments. Well, my answer is, as most people know, I am a Democrat. I’m proud to be a Democrat. I like much of Governor Cuomo’s agenda and I have called out both Republicans and Democrats over the years for what appeared to be and what we had evidence of as inappropriate conduct with women. We’re the leading women’s rights law firm in this country and we have been for 45 years. And the fact that he is a Democrat is not going to stop me from assisting persons who believe they have been victims of a democratic governor. I think it’s ridiculous to say it’s ginned up. I think it’s insulting to women to say that. Next question is the governor has admitted since the beginning that he often hugs and kisses people to greet them. He says he never meant to offend people. Does Ms. Allred think that is a defense to incidents like this? No. I think we’ll conclude the questions at this point and now we will screen share some of the photos. So let’s look at each one and then I’ll describe them and then we will conclude the press conference.
Gloria Allred: (37:59)
(silence). One moment. Let’s see. All right. Again, this is the photo of Governor Cuomo in [Sherri’s 00:38:15] home and that is her son also taking the photo. Although, this photo was sent to Sherri by the Governor’s office. Let’s see, we’ll leave it up for a few seconds. Could you put that one back, the first one back, please? In the photo, you can see her dog that she’s holding in her left arm and hand. The dog is a Yorkie. All right. Thank you. We’ll go to the next photo. It’s another photo of Governor Cuomo with his hand on Sherri and this is the photo that is signed at the top, as you see, God bless New York, Andrew Cuomo. We have blurred the face of the other woman in the photo to respect her privacy.
Gloria Allred: (39:56)
All right. Thank you. I think we can view the next photo. This is the photo of the Governor kissing Sherri, Governor kissing my mom at Rochester, New York. Because it’s difficult to see his face in this photo, we have shared with you the other photos so you can see that this is the same person, Governor Cuomo. And you can also see his hand on her face.
Gloria Allred: (40:55)
(silence). All right. Thank you very much. And finally, this is the letter that Governor Cuomo sent to Sherri and I described what the writing was on the letter previously, so I will not read it again, but this is the letter from Governor Cuomo signed by Governor Cuomo to Sherri. By the way, the Governor did meet other members of her family on that occasion, her husband and her son, but the letter is only addressed to her.
Gloria Allred: (41:46)
(silence). Thank you very much and that concludes our press conference for today. We thank everybody for coming and again, we will do our best within the next hour to send it to everyone who RSVPed today a copy of all of the photographs and the letter and Sherri’s statement and my statement. Sherri’s family does give permission, son and daughter, to use the photograph of the kiss. And of course, they do not expect any compensation for the use of this photo or for any photos or any document we’ve shared today. Thank you again for coming.
Gloria Allred: (43:06)
Sherri is not planning to do any interviews at this time. If you do wish to interview her, please email me, but don’t do it in the next hour, but a little bit later. And then I will discuss your request with Sherri, we’ll see how she feels about that. Please do not go to her home because I will find that very disturbing, not appropriate, and I can assure you that if you go to her home, Sherri is not going to be doing any interviews at all with you, if she does do any, please respect her privacy. And we will get back to you. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day. Buh-bye.