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Cohoes mayor responds to domestic abuse allegations, says he won't resign

COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) - Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse is facing new allegations of domestic violence.

Colonie police said they’re investigating allegations of domestic abuse that stem from an incident last Thursday.

Mayor Morse was previously under fire for similar domestic abuse allegations from his wife Brenda in November 2017. That 10-month investigation concluded last week as New York State Police cited no probable cause for an arrest.

But Brenda filed another complaint the next day.

NEWS10 ABC spoke to her about the allegations. She said the most recent incident in Colonie on Thursday was the breaking point.

"I had been contemplating doing something. The only reason that I didn’t is that Shawn kept putting fear into me that if I said anything that his career would be lost and that I would have nothing. I kind of hesitated. But a couple weeks back, he pushed me through my front door and that was kind of like one incident, and then the second incident was just it. I was done."

Brenda said Shawn got physical with her after a heated conversation about their teenage daughter last Thursday.

"We were in the parking lot. He was screaming all kinds of derogatory names to me. He kind of shoved me with the palm of his hand and then I went to get in my truck and he grabbed my right arm. I was able to kind of get away, got in my truck, and shut my door. Before I could start the truck, he came over and opened the door, spit in my face, and called me all kinds of names. I just shut the door and drove away."

Brenda said she is currently keeping her distance and is pursuing a divorce. She said she feels safer that the allegations are coming to light, but she is afraid of retaliation.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo called for Morse’s resignation over the weekend saying there was “frightening and egregious evidence of domestic violence.” The governor's office said it responded to the claims in the same way they did when then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was accused of domestic violence.

New York State Police confirmed on Monday that they are investigating new domestic abuse allegations against Morse.

"The case has been reopened to review evidence and examine any new information that may be developed."

On Monday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, Chairman Andrew Joyce and Majority Leader Dennis Fenney all joined the call for Morse to resign:

"Given the troubling allegations of domestic violence and child abuse made against Mayor Shawn Morse, we are in agreement that he cannot continue to serve as mayor of the City of Cohoes and accordingly we join with Governor Cuomo in calling for his immediate resignation.”

The state Democratic Committee chair, Buffalo mayor, and Albany County Democrats also called for him to resign.

But during a press conference on Monday, Morse said he will not be stepping down. He said he should not have to give up his job because of allegations.

The mayor said he sat silent for 10 months knowing that he could vindicate himself, but in order to so, he would have to hurt the people he loves the most. But after several calls for his resignation, he decided it was time to share his side of the story.

“If I am going to save my family, my kids, and even my wife’s life, I guess I have no other choice but to stand here in public in the most humiliating way,” he said. “Broken man with a broken family.”

Morse said his marital issues started over a year ago with disputes over how to raise their 15-year-old daughter. Shortly after, he said he discovered his wife had a drug addiction.

“I just think that because I told her I was going to file for custody that day it put her over the edge,” he said.

Both his attorney and stepdaughter came to his defense on Monday.

“Brenda actually asked her daughter to lie for her and say, ‘You were home and you saw the whole thing,’” his attorney Joe Ahearn said. “She routinely has bruises on her body from falling while impaired by alcohol and drugs and has told her own cousins, who she was residing with, that’s okay, I’m going to take pictures and tell police Shawn did it to me.”

Morse said his wife tested positive for cocaine three weeks ago in Family Court and was arrested. She is also no longer allowed to be alone with their daughter after the court ruled she put her in danger.

The mayor then shared a recording of a verbal altercation in front of Cohoes City Hall a few weeks ago between him and Brenda:

Mayor: “What are you doing?”
Brenda: “I’ll punch your f***** window out.”
Mayor: “What is wrong with you?”
Brenda: “You want me to? I f****** will.”
Mayor: “You already crashed this car four times.”
Brenda: “Where are you going tonight? Want me to smash your f****** face in?”

Former long-time mayor and current Assemblyman for the district John McDonald said it's important to hold the right people accountable and make sure the community stays strong. 

“If you’re a future business owner or developer or someone looking to move to the city of Cohoes, this is not helping,” he said. “This is not the Hallmark greeting card that we need.”

A Common Council meeting was held Monday evening to discuss the claims against the mayor. The majority of the meeting was devoted to public commentary.

Many people who attended were in support of the mayor. One resident, however, said the public discourse was embarrassing to the city. Another woman was there shouting “Believe Women.”

The council said they want to ensure Morse can continue his job as mayor while also dealing with his family life.

Morse said he’s been balancing the two and will continue to do so. He stands by his word that he has never touched Brenda or any woman.

He has not been charged with any crimes stemming from Thursday’s allegations.

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