ALBANY, New York (AP) – Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was charged Thursday in a criminal complaint with committing a minor sex offense, two months after he resigned under pressure in a sexual harassment scandal.
But prosecutors said Thursday they did not know the document had been filed, and the woman’s attorney said she had not been given a chance to decide whether she wanted to pursue a case.
The one-page complaint, filed by an Albany County Sheriff’s Office investigator, accused Cuomo of putting his hand under a woman’s shirt on December 7, 2020. The document did not name the woman, but Cuomo had been publicly accused of groping a woman. assistant, Brittany Commisso, at the executive mansion in Albany last year around that time.
The county district attorney’s office, David Soares, who would handle any prosecution and was involved in the investigation, released a statement saying the filing caught him off guard.
“Like the rest of the public, we were surprised to learn today that the Albany County Sheriff’s Office filed a criminal complaint in Albany City Court against Andrew Cuomo,” he said. “Since then, the Office of Court Administration has made that presentation public. Our office will not comment further on this case. “
The Times Union newspaper quoted unidentified officials as saying the complaint had been issued “prematurely” before a final decision was made on whether Cuomo would face charges.
Albany County Sheriff’s Office Craig Apple did not directly address that report, but confirmed in a statement that the Albany City Court had issued a criminal subpoena ordering Cuomo to appear at 2:30 p.m. on November 17. .
The statement suggested that it was court officials, not prosecutors or a law enforcement agency, who made the decision to issue the subpoena. He said the sheriff’s investigators had determined there was “probable cause” to present evidence to the court “for review and to determine the most appropriate legal path to advance the investigation.”
Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, said in a statement that the Democrat never assaulted anyone and that the “sheriff’s motives here are patently improper.”
“Sheriff Apple didn’t even tell the district attorney what he was doing. But Apple’s behavior is no surprise given (1) its August 7 press conference where it essentially found the governor guilty before doing an investigation, and (2) the leak of grand jury information by his office. This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics. “
The crime of forceful touching is punishable in New York by up to one year in jail and up to three years probation, with the court’s discretion to impose lesser penalties, including no jail time.
Commisso, an executive assistant to Cuomo, says he touched her when they were alone in an office at the governor’s mansion in Albany.
She said Cuomo pulled her into a hug as she got ready to leave. When she told him, “You’re going to get us in trouble,” Cuomo replied, “I don’t care,” and slammed the door, according to her account. Commisso said Cuomo slid his hand down her blouse and grabbed her chest.
Cuomo has flatly denied that he touched her, once saying, “I’d have to lose my head to do such a thing.”
Commisso’s attorney, Brian Premo, said in a statement to the Times Union that he had not been consulted about the criminal complaint.
“My client understood that the district attorney’s office agreed with the sheriff’s department that they would conduct a thorough, impartial, and non-political evaluation of the case, and only after the investigation was completed, would I speak with my client to allow them to make an informed decision about whether to proceed as a victim in the case, “said Premo. “Like the district attorney’s office, he was informed about this recent filing through the media.”
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they choose to tell their stories publicly, as Commisso has done in interviews.
Commisso filed a complaint with the sheriff in August of the same week, a report from the state attorney general, Letitia James, found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. Other accusations outlined in the report range from planting unwanted kisses to asking unwanted personal questions about sex and dating.
Cuomo announced his resignation a week after the report was released, marking a dramatic drop for the third-term governor who had been seen as a beacon of solid competence during his daily briefings on COVID-19 in 2020. He attacked the report of the attorney general as inaccurate and biased.
James, whose office is not involved in the criminal investigation, issued a statement saying that his civil investigation had been conducted “without fear or favor.”
“The criminal charges filed today against Mr. Cuomo for tampering further validate the findings of our report,” he said.
James is said to be close to announcing his candidacy for governor, several people with knowledge of his plans told The Associated Press.
The complaint filed by the sheriff’s department investigator said the evidence in the case included police BlackBerry messages, cell phone records, building security records, Cuomo’s flight records, and a text message from his mobile phone. . The complaint was signed by the officer on Monday and sealed by the court as received on Thursday.
Cuomo’s attorney, Glavin, has claimed that records show it was unlikely the two would have spent time alone during the period in question. Cuomo’s spokesman Rich Azzopardi ridiculed Thursday’s turn of events.
“Accidentally filing a criminal charge without the notification and consent of the prosecuting body does not pass the laugh test and this process reeks of Albany politics and perhaps worse. The fact that the AG, as predicted, is about to announce a candidacy for governor, does not go unnoticed by anyone. The truth about what happened to this cowboy sheriff will come out, ”he said.
District attorneys in Oswego, Manhattan, suburban Westchester and Nassau counties had also said they requested investigative materials from the attorney general’s investigation to see if any of the allegations could result in criminal charges.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee is completing an extensive impeachment investigation of Cuomo that began before he resigned. They were also looking at management’s handling of COVID-19 data and efforts to accelerate COVID-19 testing for Cuomo’s inner circle in spring 2020.