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ALBANY, N.Y. — An upstate woman says Gov. Andrew Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her on the cheek in a “highly sexual manner” while touring her storm-damaged home in 2017, adding to the growing number of misconduct claims against the embattled governor.
Sherry Vill, 55, said she was left rattled and afraid to come forward after the encounter in which Cuomo called her beautiful and twice kissed her aggressively on the cheeks during a visit to her home in Greece, a suburb of Rochester.
“I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face, and he was kissing my cheek again,” Vill said during a virtual news conference Monday with attorney Gloria Allred.
The married mother of three said she knows the “difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one.”
“I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day Gov. Cuomo came to my house,” she said. “His actions were very overly sexual, highly inappropriate and disrespectful to me and my family.”
Someone from Cuomo’s office left Vill a voicemail days after the encounter asking if she would attend an upcoming event in the area.
The invite made no mention of her husband or family.
“Only specifically me,” she said.
Vill never responded to the call and says she later received a letter from the governor that included a pair of photographs of him shaking her hand inside her home.
Allred showed off photos of the governor’s visit, including a still shot from video showing Cuomo leaning in for a kiss.
The high profile attorney said that while “technically if a person touches another person with the intent to touch that person, it is battery and a civil” crime, she and Vill are focused on cooperating with the independent investigation into Cuomo’s conduct being overseen by Attorney General James’ office.
Rita Glavin, an attorney representing the governor, issued a statement along with a link to photos from the same trip. Some of the shots show Cuomo holding and shaking hands as well as kissing another woman while clasping his hands around her face, which the governor has described as a customary greeting.
“During times of crisis, the governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses,” Glavin said. “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.”
Vill’s claim echoes several accusations made against the 63-year-old governor primarily by a series of staffers and former aides who say he made unwanted advances and inappropriate comments.
Lindsey Boylan, a one-time Cuomo adviser, sparked a firestorm of accusations last month when she published an essay detailing the governor’s alleged sordid behavior and claiming he tried to kiss her during a meeting in his Manhattan office.
One current staffer says the governor groped her late last year at the Executive Mansion in Albany.
Another woman, Anna Ruch, says Cuomo approached her at a 2019 wedding in the city and placed a hand on her back not long after being introduced at the reception.
The governor next placed his hands on either side of Ruch’s face and asked for a kiss, she said. A photo of the incident from the wedding shows Ruch with a look of dread upon her face as Cuomo cups her face in his hands.
In response, the governor has said that his “usual and customary way of greeting” involves kissing and hugging people and apologized if the behavior offended anyone.
“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people: women, men, children, et cetera,” Cuomo said during a briefing earlier this month. “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
As the accusations mount, the governor has denied any wrongdoing. He now faces the outside probe being overseen by James’ office as well as an impeachment investigation taken up by the Assembly.
Cuomo has repeatedly said he never touched anyone inappropriately, but, in an apology dismissed by his accusers, acknowledged he acted in ways that made people feel uncomfortable.
Also mired in several other scandals and a federal probe related to the state’s handling of COVID deaths in nursing homes and other issues, he has resisted calls to step down coming from both sides of the aisle.
The state’s top Democrat, a national star during the early months of the pandemic, compared calls for his resignation to “cancel culture” and insinuated some of his accusers may have political motivations during a recent call with reporters.
Since then, the governor has refused to take questions about the allegations against him, citing the multiple ongoing probes.