Ex-Cuomo aide wants a transcript private. The former NY governor’s team already distributed it.

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By Dan Sears

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s associates distributed a transcript of his lawyers grilling a former aide who accused him of fostering a toxic workplace during a deposition, a document the aide’s attorney argues was meant to be kept under seal pending a judge’s ruling.

Two years after announcing his resignation, Cuomo and his legal team continue to use aggressive tactics to try to publicly clear his name and discredit his many accusers — including former aide Ana Liss, who went public in 2021 with her claims the former governor oversaw a hostile culture within his office.

The most recent example centers on Liss’ nearly eight-hour deposition on July 10 in a civil lawsuit filed against Cuomo by an anonymous state trooper who claims he sexually harassed her.

In a letter filed in court Wednesday, Liss’ attorney, Donald Rehnkopf, argued the 485-page transcript — which Cuomo’s legal team filed under seal on the case’s docket — should have been kept confidential, citing her privacy. There was only one problem: Cuomo’s team had already made it public through other methods.

In response to a question Thursday from Gothamist, Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi, a co-defendant in the trooper’s lawsuit, confirmed the governor’s team sent a redacted copy of the full transcript to news reporters. The recipients included a media critic for The Washington Post who recently sent emails seeking comment about the testimony to Liss’ attorney and media outlets including Gothamist, which had written an article in 2021 featuring Liss’ claims.

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“This is uncontested public information that we believe can be widely distributed,” Azzopardi said. “We’ve given it to members of the media who have expressed interest in it.”

An attorney for Cuomo had also publicly posted 40 pages of excerpts to a court docket for a related case late last month, which quickly led to pro-Cuomo social media accounts taking screen shots to taunt Liss on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

On Monday, The New York Times reported Cuomo’s sister, Madeline, had extensive communication over the last three years with some of Cuomo’s most-vocal supporters on social media, who often posted things at her behest. Azzopardi said Cuomo’s team played no role in distributing the Liss transcript to any social media users, who appeared to be taking screen shots of Liss’ testimony from the portion posted publicly.

In his letter Wednesday, Rehnkopf claims the transcript should remain under seal, which keeps it hidden from public view, under a confidentiality agreement between the parties in the case. But Cuomo’s team disagrees, claiming Rehnkopf previously made more-narrow requests for redactions and consented to the transcript’s release in a phone call late last month.

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Rehnkopf declined comment Thursday, citing the confidentiality agreement. But his letter Wednesday firmly opposes the release of the “entire contents of her deposition testimony” and private messages between her and fellow former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan, while not objecting to the release of “matters previously released to the media regarding the case.”

Even after Rehnkopf’s letter, the Cuomo team believes it has the right to distribute the transcript. To prove the point, Azzopardi sent the redacted version of the document to Gothamist Thursday afternoon.

Catherine Foti, an attorney for Azzopardi and former top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, who is also a co-defendant in the trooper’s lawsuit, pointed to a July email Rehnkopf wrote the attorneys in the case where he did not explicitly request confidentiality for the entirety of the transcript. Rehnkopf’s specific objections had to do with Liss’ previous testimony to the state attorney general’s office and the messages with Boylan.

On July 29, Foti wrote to Rehnkopf warning him that Cuomo’s legal team was prepared to publicly distribute the transcript. That led to the phone call, in which Foti claims Rehnkopf didn’t object.

“From our perspective, he can’t renege on the agreement,” Foti said.

In his filing, Rehnkopf said the entirety of Liss’ testimony is covered by the confidentiality agreement.

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He said Liss’ testimony should be sealed in part because she had no connection to the state trooper who filed the suit. Liss had left state service before the trooper was promoted to Cuomo’s security detail, which is when the alleged harassment occurred.

“As such, we respectfully submit that, other than hearsay, Ms. Liss-Jackson has nothing relevant to offer in this lawsuit,” Rehnkopf wrote.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Catherine Foti’s last name.

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