State Watch

Cuomo administration hires defense attorney for nursing home probe

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) administration hired a defense attorney to represent the governor and his closest aides in an investigation probing COVID-19 nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

Defense attorney Elkan Abramowitz, a former federal prosecutor, confirmed to The Hill on Monday that he was representing the “Executive Chamber” as the state endures three probes into how it handled reporting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. 

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Abramowitz’s hiring.  

Two of the investigations are being conducted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights and Civil division, while the third is being handled by the Brooklyn-based U.S. attorney’s office. The governor previously said the state is cooperating in all three inquiries.

The governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Cuomo’s administration faced backlash for its management of nursing homes during the pandemic for months, particularly from Republicans. 

But in January, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) published a report determining the state should not have excluded the number of residents who died after being taken to hospitals from the nursing home death toll. The change in classification put the number of nursing home deaths at 15,000 from 8,500 as recently as late January.

Abramowitz’s hiring also comes after a tumultuous week for Cuomo as the governor faces sexual harassment allegations from two of his former aides. The lawyer told The Hill that his firm has not been retained to defend the state executive on the harassment allegations. 

The former federal prosecutor was previously hired by Cuomo in 2014 when the governor dealt with a federal investigation into whether he influenced the work of an anti-corruption commission. A U.S. attorney concluded there was “insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime.”

Tags Andrew Cuomo Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 nursing home deaths defense attorney New York nursing home deaths nursing homes Pandemic Sexual harassment

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