Brittany Commisso is the woman identified as “executive assistant #1” in the New York Attorney General’s investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo. Commisso has accused Cuomo of groping her. Commisso has worked for Cuomo since 2017. Her estranged husband and his family are involved in Democratic politics in the Albany area.
The 32-year-old Commisso spoke out publicly for the first time in an interview with CBS This Morning and the Albany Times-Union that aired on Monday, August 9, 2021. Her interview with the news show and newspaper comes almost a week after Attorney General Letitia James released the report into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo, a Democrat who has been New York’s governor since 2011. The report was made public on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Commisso previously gave an anonymous interview to the Times-Union in April 2021. She first made her complaint to the attorney general’s office in March 2021.
The attorney general’s office report stated accusations made by Commisso and 10 other women were credible and corroborated. The investigation was led by employment law attorney Anne Clark and former federal prosecutor Joon Kim. James appointed Clark and Kim to lead an independent inquiry after Cuomo tasked James’ office with investigating the allegations against him.
Cuomo has denied touching women inappropriately, but apologized if his behavior was “misinterpreted,” while his attorneys have questioned the fairness and impartiality of the attorney general’s investigation. The New York State Assembly will decide whether to impeach Cuomo. He is also facing a criminal investigation by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in connection to Commisso’s accusations, while prosecutors in Westchester County, Nassau County and Manhattan have also opened criminal inquiries.
Here’s what you need to know about Brittany Commisso and her accusations against Cuomo:
1. Commisso Told the Attorney General’s Investigators Cuomo ‘Reached Under Her Blouse & Grabbed Her Breast’
Cuomo is accused in the report of engaging in a “pattern of inappropriate conduct” with Commisso since about late 2019, according to the attorney general’s report. According to the report, the pattern included “close and intimate hugs,” “kisses on the cheeks, forehead and at least one kiss on the lips,” “touching and grabbing” of her “butt during hugs” and while taking a selfie, “comments and jokes by the governor” about Commisso’s “personal life and relationships, including calling her and another. assistant ‘mingle mamas,’ inquiring multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband and asking her to help find him a girlfriend.”
The report states, “These offensive interactions, among others, culminated in an incident at the executive mansion in November 2020 when the governor, during another close hug with Executive Assistant #1, reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast. For over three months, Executive Assistant #1 kept this groping incident to herself and planned to take it ‘to the rave,’ but found herself becoming emotional (in a way that was visible to her colleagues in the executive chamber) while watching the governor state, at a press conference on March 3, 2021, that. he had never ‘touched anyone inappropriately.’ She then confided in certain of her colleagues, who in turn reported her allegations to senior staff in the executive chamber.”
Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, responded to the accusations made in the report by Commisso during a press conference on August 6, saying, “What she has alleged is perhaps the most significant allegation made against the governor. … In essence she has accused Governor Cuomo of sexual assault. The governor has repeatedly denied that ever took place and quite frankly, when she first raised this in early March, he was stunned.”
Glavin said, “I did what any investigator would do, which I reconstructed the events of that day (November 16, 2020). Me and my team went through the emails for that day. All the entrants and exit records and this woman’s story which is stated as fact in the report is false. The documentary evidence does not support what she said. And what is disturbing to me is that the two investigators did not show that evidence to you. They ignored it.” A footnote in the report notes that Commisso did not remember the exact date of the incident, but said it was around November 16, 2020.
2. Commisso Said She Filed a Criminal Complaint Against Cuomo Because ‘What He Did to Me Was a Crime. He Broke the Law’
Commisso filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office days after the attorney general’s report was made public. During her interview with CBS News and the Albany Times-Union, Commisso said, “It was the right thing to do. The governor needs to be held accountable. … What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.”
Commisso added, “I didn’t say anything this whole time. People don’t understand that this is the governor of the state of New York. There are troopers that are outside of the mansion and there are some mansion staff. Those troopers that are there, they are not there to protect me. They are there to protect him. I felt as though if I did something to insult him, especially insult him in his own home, it wasn’t going to be him that was going to get fired or in trouble. It was going to be me. And I felt as though if I said something that I know, who was going to believe me?”
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said at a press conference that the accusations made against Cuomo by Commisso could lead to an arrest on misdemeanor charges. He told reporters on August 7, “I cannot get into the nature of her specific allegations, at this time obviously we are in the very infant stages of this investigation. We have a lot of fact finding to do, we have a lot of interviews to do.” Apple said that would include a lengthy interview with Commisso.
Apple added, “I had a female victim come forward, which had to be the hardest thing she’s ever done in her life and make an allegation of criminal conduct against the governor.”
The attorney general’s office issued a statement after Apple’s press conference saying, “We will cooperate fully with the Albany sheriff and turn over all evidence related to this complainant. Similarly, we will cooperate with all law enforcement agencies, as appropriate.”
Cuomo and his attorneys have denied Commisso’s accusations. His attorney, Glavin, said at a press conference on August 6, “He is 63 years old. He has spent 40 years in public life and for him to all of the sudden be accused of a sexual assault of an executive assistant that he really doesn’t know, doesn’t pass muster.”
3. Commisso Was an Executive Assistant in the State Department of Transportation & a Confidential Secretary for the Albany County Alternate Public Defender & Department of Law Before Working for Cuomo
Brittany Damino Commisso has worked in various roles in the local and state government, according to her now-deleted LinkedIn profile. She graduated from SUNY Albany with a degree in political science and government.
From 2013 to 2017, Commisso worked as a confidential secretary in the Albany County Department of Law, according to her LinkedIn profile. She was then a confidential secretary in the Albany County Alternate Public Defender’s office from May 2017 to November 2017. She began working in the governor’s office as an executive assistant in December 2017.
According to an April 2021 interview with the Albany Times-Union, Commisso worked for a top official at a state agency during the start of her time with the governor’s office, and then returned to work closer to Cuomo in June 2019 as executive assistant to one of his top advisors.
She told the newspaper that when she first started working in the governor’s office, a woman who also worked on his staff told her “‘Oh, you’re going to get stolen.’ I just smiled. She said, ‘You just wait and see, and the governor will be stealing you,'” the woman said. “That was my first day, and that was my first time that I said to myself, ‘I know that wasn’t normal.’ You hear stories about what happens at the Capitol. … I know what she meant by that.” Commisso told the newspaper that in late 2019, she began to be called upon to work directly with Cuomo more frequently.
4. Commisso’s Husband, Frank Commisso Jr., Ran Unsuccessfully for Albany Mayor in 2017 & Her Father-in-Law Is an Albany County Legislator
Brittany Commisso has been married to Frank Commisso Jr. since 2016. They are currently going through a contested divorce, according to New York state records. They have a young daughter together.
Commisso’s estranged husband ran unsuccessfully for Albany mayor in 2017 as a Democrat. His campaign’s Twitter profile from the time shows her by his side on the campaign trail and on election night.
Commisso’s father, Frank Commisso Sr., also a Democrat, has been a member of the Albany County Legislature since 1983. Neither the elder nor the junior Frank Commisso has spoken out publicly about the accusations made by Brittany Commisso.
In the attorney general’s report, the investigators wrote, that Brittany Commisso “repeatedly testified that she felt she had to tolerate the Governor’s physical advances and suggestive comments because she feared the repercussions if she did not.” The report added that Commisso, “testified that she needed the income (including the overtime pay received from working on weekends), particularly as she was going through a divorce and was focused on not risking losing her job.”
5. Commisso’s Attorney Says She Is Willing to Take a Lie Detector Test
During her interview with the Albany Times-Union in April 2021, which was published without naming her, Commisso said about the incident when she said she. was groped, “I was just so confused and so taken aback by it. … He never said anything, which was odd. At this moment, I don’t know what to say — I don’t know what to do. Now my hives are coming out. I’m, like, swearing in my mind. I remember I walked out and he walked back into his office. … I remember going downstairs and escorting myself out and going to my car and sitting there for a second and going, ‘OK, I have to now go back into the Capitol, go back to my desk and do my job and pretend that, like, that didn’t just happen.'”
Commisso added, “I didn’t have another choice. I remember (thinking), ‘You have to pull yourself together … even if you have to sit here for a couple minutes to do that.’ If I told someone, I’m done. And who do you tell?”
Commisso’s attorney, Brian Premo, told the Times-Union in July 2021 that his client would be willing to take a lie detector test. Premo asked whether Cuomo would also take a polygraph exam. Premo told the newspaper, “the day we met … that she would take a polygraph test — without hesitation.”
Commisso has continued to work at the Capitol, according to the Times-Union, which wrote in April 2021:
In the backdrop of the dual investigations and the political theater, the young woman at the center of the most serious allegations has soldiered on, reporting to her job at the Capitol where she has endured an occasional ‘dirty look’ and fewer work assignments. She was already thin, but has lost significant weight, is emotionally fragile, and — as the mother of a young child — remains concerned about job security.
After Cuomo and his attorneys responded to the report in a video statement and at a press conference, James and the attorney general’s office issued a statement on August 6 saying, “After multiple women made accusations that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed them, the governor, himself, requested that Attorney General James oversee an independent investigation. The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.”
The statement added, “There will be a rolling production of interview transcripts made available to the state Assembly, which will be redacted as needed. There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”