NEW YORK - A criminal complaint filed by a police investigator with a court in Albany has accused former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of committing a misdemeanor sex crime, though there was confusion Thursday over whether the document was made public by mistake.
The one-page complaint, filed by an investigator with the Albany County Sheriff's Office, accused Cuomo of putting his hand under a woman's shirt on Dec. 7, 2020. The document didn't name the woman but Cuomo had been publicly accused of groping an aide, Brittany Commisso, at the executive mansion in Albany last year around that date.
The office of the county's district attorney, David Soares, which would handle any prosecution and was involved in the investigation, issued a statement saying it had been caught off guard by the filing.
"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," it said. "The Office of Court Administration has since made that filing public. Our office will not be commenting further on this case."
The Times Union, of Albany, quoted unnamed officials as saying the complaint had been issued "prematurely" before a final decision had been made about whether Cuomo would face charges.
The office of Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple didn't directly address that report, but confirmed in a statement that a criminal summons had been issued ordering Cuomo to appear in Albany City Court at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 17.
The statement suggested it was court officials, not prosecutors or a law enforcement agency, that made the decision to issue the summons. It said sheriff's investigators had determined there was "probable cause" to present evidence to the court "for their review to determine the most appropriate legal pathway moving forward on the investigation."
Cuomo's lawyer, 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) 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."
The crime of forcible touching is punishable in New York by up to year in jail and up to three years probation, with discretion for the court to impose lesser penalties including no jail time.
Commisso, an executive assistant for Cuomo, says he groped her when they were alone in an office at the governor’s mansion in Albany.
She said Cuomo pulled her in for a hug as she prepared 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 up her blouse and grabbed her breast.
Cuomo has adamantly denied groping her, saying once, "I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing."
Commisso's lawyer, Brian Premo, said in a statement to the Times Union that she hadn't been consulted about the criminal complaint.
"It was my client’s understanding that the district attorney’s office was in agreement with the sheriff’s department that it was going to conduct a thorough, impartial and apolitical evaluation of the case, and only after completion of the investigation, speak to my client to allow her to make an informed decision as to whether she would proceed as a victim in the case," Premo said. "Like the district attorney’s office, she was informed about this recent filing through media."
Cuomo had repeatedly denied allegations in a report that triggered his resignation. He used his final address on his last day in office to take another swipe at the state attorney general's investigation, which concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.
For months, the Democrat saw his political clout dwindle and his ambitions for national office evaporate as he became embroiled in controversies, including disturbing accusations of sexually harassing women and troubling allegations of covering up data on coronavirus deaths linked to nursing homes.
Attorney General Letitia James announced on August 3, 2021, that an investigation into Cuomo found that he sexually harassed several current and former state employees, many of whom were young women.
The women had accused Cuomo of subjecting them to inappropriate kisses and touching or inappropriate sexual remarks. The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a "hostile work environment" and that it was "rife with fear and intimidation."
Cuomo served one term as state attorney general before being elected to the state's top job in 2010. He was elected twice more by wide margins but will step down before matching the gubernatorial tenure of his late father, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who served from 1983 to 1994.
Under state law, Hochul took over as governor as soon as Cuomo's resignation was official She is entitled to finish his term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2022. Hochul, a former congresswoman from western New York, joined Cuomo's ticket in 2014 when he sought election to his second term. (Robert Duffy, who was Cuomo's lieutenant governor for one term, declined to seek reelection that year.)
Several women have accused Cuomo, 63, of various kinds of engaging in sexually suggestive statements, unwanted advances, inappropriate touching, and more. Most of the women worked for Cuomo either in his administration as governor or in his time as President Bill Clinton's housing secretary.
One allegation was made by an unnamed aide who said the then-governor summoned her to the Executive Mansion, his official residence in Albany, to help him with his cellphone in late December, The Times Union of Albany reported. She was alone with Cuomo when he closed the door, reached under her shirt, and fondled her, the newspaper reported, citing an unidentified source with direct knowledge of the woman's accusation.
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Other women have come forward publicly with stories of their experiences with Cuomo.
Lindsay Boylan, a former aide who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for Manhattan borough president, in December accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her "for years" and that many people "saw it, and watched."
"I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks," Boylan tweeted. "Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years."
Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked her about her sex life and said he was open to "dating anyone over 22."
Ana Liss, a former aide to the governor, told a Rochester-based TV station that Cuomo was flirtatious with her but she thought it was harmless. However, she said the governor's office was a hostile, toxic work environment that harmed young women.
The attorney general's investigation substantiated many of the accusations and also revealed publicly for the first time allegations that the governor sexually harassed a female state trooper on his security detail..
FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.