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. “I am still afraid of him, but I am no longer willing to remain silent.”
The alleged encounter occurred in May 2017, while Cuomo was touring Greece, NY, which had recently been ravaged by floods, New York Post reported.
Vill, whose house 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 mine 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 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.”
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,” the woman said. “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, the Post reported.
“I felt like I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my cheek again,” said Vill. “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.”
“He towered over me,” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”
“I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one,” she continued. “I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Gov. Cuomo came to my home. His actions were very overly sexual, highly inappropriate and disrespectful to me and my family.”
According to Vill, days later she was contacted by a member of the governor’s staff by voicemail asking if she would like to attend an upcoming event with the governor.
“Notably, [the staffer] did not say ‘my husband and I,’ or ‘my family and I,’” said Vill. “Only specifically me.”
However, 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.
That letter too was addressed specifically to Vill, even though Cuomo had also met her husband and son on that May day.
“This had a long-term effect on me,” said Vill, noting that neighbors took to teasing her as “the governor’s new girlfriend.”
According to Allred, Vill was always troubled by the incident, but maintained her silence for years because family members feared reprisal from the governor.
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.
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.
Allred and Vill also chose to reserve judgment on whether Cuomo should resign as governor, saying that the investigations should first run their course.
Cuomo’s office has not responded to requests for comment on Monday’s newest allegations, according to the Post.