politics

Former NY Gov. Cuomo Charged With Sex Crime, Months After Resigning Amid Harassment Probe

Mary Altaffer | Pool | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on May 10, 2021 in New York City.

  • Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was charged with a misdemeanor sex-crime complaint alleging he forcibly touched a woman last Dec. 7 in the governor's Executive Mansion in Albany.
  • The filing comes two months after Cuomo resigned in disgrace following accusations of sexual harassment against the three-term Democrat by multiple women.
  • A damning report issued by the state Attorney General's office in August found he had sexually harassed at least 11 current and former staffers, including a state police trooper assigned to his protective detail and women outside of government.
  • The Albany City Court issued a summons for Cuomo to appear in that courf Nov. 17, according to a press release issued Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple Sr.

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was charged Thursday with a misdemeanor sex-crime complaint that alleges he forcibly touched a woman last Dec. 7 in the governor's Executive Mansion in Albany.

The filing of that complaint in Albany City Court comes two months after Cuomo resigned in disgrace following accusations of sexual harassment against the three-term Democrat by nearly a dozen women, detailed in a damning report issued by state Attorney General Letitia James.

The city court issued a summons for Cuomo to appear in that court on the afternoon of Nov. 17, according to a press release issued Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple Sr, whose investigator signed the criminal complaint.

The complaint says that Cuomo, 63, intentionally, "and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim .... and onto her intimate body part.'

'Specifically, the [victim's] left breast for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires."

Forcible touching is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, Cuomo could be sentenced up to a year in prison, to up to three years of probation.

The victim's name was redacted from a copy of the complaint released by a spokesman for the New York state courts system.

But Apple has previously said he was investigating a complaint made in August by a female Cuomo staffer identified in James' report as Executive Assistant #1.

A Cuomo assistant named Brittany Commisso later came forward to publicly identify herself in media interviews as the staffer who had told Apple's investigators that Cuomo manhandled her and grabbed her breast in the Executive Mansion.

Commisso's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Apple, in a statement, said that his investigator went to court to "determine the most appropriate legal pathway moving for on the investigation" into Cuomo.

Apple said his investigators "have determined that there was enough probable cause to present evidence to the court."

Albany County District Attorney David Soares, whose office is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, in a statement said he had been unaware of Apple's plans to lodge the complaint.

"Like the rest of the public, we were surprised to learn today that a criminal complaint was filed in Albany City Court by the Albany County Sheriff's Office against Andrew Cuomo," Soares said.

"The Office of Court Administration has since made that filing public. Our office will not be commenting further on this case," said Soares, who is among at least five New York district attorneys whose have investigated possible crimes by Cuomo against women.

Cuomo's lawyer, Rita Glavin, in a written statement said, "Governor Cuomo has never assaulted anyone, and Sheriff Apple's motives here are patently improper."

"Sheriff Apple didn't even tell the District Attorney what he was doing," Glavin said. "But Apple's behavior is no surprise given (1) his August 7 press conference where he essentially pronounced the Governor guilty before doing an investigation, and (2) his Office's leaking of grand jury information. This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics."

Apple on Aug. 7 had said that Cuomo could face a possible misdemeanor charge for his conduct toward Executive Assistant #1.

James, a Democrat who reportedly is preparing to run for governor herself, in a statement, said, "From the moment my office received the referral to investigate allegations that former Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, we proceeded without fear or favor."

"The criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report," James said.

The Albany Times Union reported earlier Thursday that the criminal summons was issued "prematurely" and that sources said that "no final decision has been made by the [Albany County] sheriff's department or the Albany County district attorney's office on whether to formally file charges."

In the report issued by James in August, investigators found that Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 current and former staffers, including a state police trooper assigned to his protective detail and women outside of government. The report concluded Cuomo touched women without their consent and made inappropriate comments toward numerous women.

James has said that Cuomo broke state and federal laws with his conduct

The report said that "since approximately late 2019, the Governor engaged in a pattern of inappropriate conduct with an executive assistant ("Executive Assistant#1″)."

"That pattern of conduct included: (1) close and intimate hugs; (2) kisses on the cheeks, forehead, and at least one kiss on the lips; (3) touching and grabbing of Executive Assistant #1′s butt during hugs and, on one occasion, while taking selfies with him; and (4) comments and jokes by the Governor about Executive Assistant #1′s personal life and relationships, including calling her and another assistant "mingle mamas," the report said.

Cuomo also asked the woman "multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband, and asking her to help find him a girlfriend," according to the report,

"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," the report said.

Although the assistant kept that incident to herself and planned to do so forever, she "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,'" according to the report.

"She then confided in certain of her colleagues, who in turn reported her allegations to senior staff in the Executive Chamber."

Cuomo has strongly denied some allegations in the AG's report, and said that other claims about his behavior either mischaracterized or misinterpreted what he did.

Cuomo, whose father Mario Cuomo served three full terms as governor of New York, avoided possible impeachment by resigning. He was succeeded by Gov. Kathy Hochul, who had served as Cuomo's lieutenant governor.

Mariann Wang, a lawyer for two of the women who have accused Cuomo of misconduct, Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, in a statement said, "My clients are enormously grateful for the courage of the women who have come forward to speak the truth about Cuomo's misconduct."

 "Cuomo is being held to account as he should be, including by being forced to answer a criminal charge," Wang said. "We hope that all men who abuse their power by abusing women will see this and understand that there will be real consequences to their profoundly damaging behavior."

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