Judge dismisses criminal groping case against Andrew Cuomo
NEW YORK - A judge has dismissed the only criminal charge filed against the Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in connection with the sexual harassment allegations that drove him from office.
"The complaint is hereby dismissed," Albany City Court Judge Holly Trexler said on Friday.
Cuomo appeared just briefly during this virtual court proceeding, from an unknown location and did not speak. This is the first time the former Governor has appeared live since he resigned in August 2021.
City Court Judge Trexler said on Friday she was dismissing the charge after the Albany County District Attorney’s office said it could not successfully prosecute the case.
"Just to repeat, you said you cannot successfully secure a conviction," Trexler asked.
"That’s correct your honor," prosecutors said.
Charges were first filed against the former governor after his assistant, Brittany Commisso, testified that Cuomo summoned her to his residence on Dec. 7, 2020, asking for Commisso's help with technical issues. She then alleges that Cuomo reached under her blouse and groped her breast.
The misdemeanor complaint was filed by the local sheriff in October. Albany County District Attorney David Soares told Judge Holly Trexler earlier this week that although the aide was credible, and some evidence supported her account, he believed he couldn't win a conviction in court.
Soares and Cuomo's attorney each asked the judge to dismiss the complaint. With an arraignment already scheduled, the judge said Cuomo and the attorneys should appear virtually. The judge will preside over the proceeding from an Albany courtroom with the lawyers participating via videoconference.
Commisso, along with 10 other women, were named in the State Attorney General’s report, following a five-month investigation into the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
Cuomo resigned that month. He has called the report unfair and has vehemently denied the groping allegation.
Both the Attorney General and Albany County District Attorney David Soares say they found Commisso to be "very credible."
However, District Attorney Soares asked the judge earlier this week to drop the misdemeanor charge saying that he believes there is not enough evidence to move forward.
On WAMC Radio Friday morning, Soares argued that the burden of proof is incredibly high when it comes to criminal cases.
"A prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt," Soares said. "It’s not by probable cause, like we could probably establish that. No, we have to prove those elements beyond a reasonable doubt. And if you cannot do that, then ethically we are bound not to proceed."
Yet, critics say Soares dropped the case too soon, once faced with the possibility of having to stand up to the former governor and the $18 million still at Cuomo’s disposal from his campaign.
Elias Farah, an Attorney and a member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, said this only dissuades other survivors from stepping forward.
"For a District Attorney to say we hear you, we see you, but we’re not going to do anything with this, sends a message to harassers and abusers that if you’re powerful enough you’ll get away with this type of behavior," Farah said. "It also sends a message to victims that if you come forward, somebody might listen to you but nothing is going to happen."
Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, in a quick video appearance claimed that the fact charges were dismissed is evidence that the accusations against him were a political hit job.
"Today, reason and the rule of law prevailed," Glavin said. "Not politics, rhetoric or mob mentality."
Cuomo has continuously insisted that the investigations against him are biased and inaccurate, but resigned in August last year, when it became clear that he would be facing impeachment proceedings.
Cuomo will also still likely face civil suits in the near future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.