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Albany County district attorney won't move forward with groping case against Andrew Cuomo

Albany district attorney won't pursue Cuomo criminal charge
Albany district attorney won't pursue Cuomo criminal charge 02:00

The district attorney in Albany County, New York, said Tuesday that he will not pursue a forcible touching charge against former Governor Andrew Cuomo. The announcement comes after months of friction between the district attorney and the county's sheriff, who initially filed the charge. 

"While we found the complainant in this case cooperative and credible, after review of all the available evidence we have concluded that we cannot meet our burden at trial," Albany County District Attorney David Soares said in a statement. "As such we have notified the Court that we are declining to prosecute this matter and requesting the charges filed by the Albany County Sheriff be dismissed."

In a letter to the court on Tuesday, Soares said his office "considered other potential criminal charges and concluded that none fit the allegations." He also said the other investigations into Cuomo's alleged conduct were an "impediment" to filing charges, writing that the inquiries presented "significant technical and procedural hurdles" in determining what evidence would be subject to discovery in the case. 

An attorney for Cuomo did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The complaint, which was filed in October, alleged that at around 4 p.m. on December 7, 2020, at the executive mansion in Albany, Cuomo "intentionally and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place[d] 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." 

Cuomo has denied all allegations of harassment. In response to the October complaint, his attorney told CBS News that "Governor Cuomo has never assaulted anyone." 

Arraignment in the case was originally scheduled for December 7, but was delayed until January after Soares raised concerns over potential procedural problems with the complaint. Soares wrote in a November 5 letter to the judge in the case that the sheriff had "unilaterally and inexplicably" filed the charge against Cuomo while the district attorney's office was still conducting its investigation. 

Soares said in the November 5 letter that filings in the case were "potentially defective," lacked a sworn statement from the victim, omitted other testimony and misstated relevant law.  Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple previously defended his office's handling of the charge, saying during an October 29 press conference that it had done a "very comprehensive and methodical investigation," reviewed "hundreds if not thousands" of documents and conducted interviews with numerous witnesses.

The victim was not identified by name in the complaint, but the case appeared to stem from allegations made by former aide Brittany Commisso, who said last summer that the governor groped her in December 2019 and November 2020. 

Cuomo has repeatedly denied Commisso's allegations. 

"To touch a woman's breasts, who I hardly know, in the mansion with 10 staff around, with my family in the mansion, to say, 'I don't care who sees us,'" Cuomo said in a July deposition. "I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing."

An attorney for Commisso said Tuesday that his client "had no authority or voice" over the filing or prosecution of the charges. "The only thing she has any power over is her resolution to continue to speak the truth and seek justice in an appropriate civil action, which she will do in due course," the attorney said. 

Cuomo resigned in August after a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James detailed accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by 11 women, including former staffers and a state trooper. The report prompted investigations by several local district attorneys, none of whom have since filed charges. 

On December 23, acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce Smith announced that an accusation by a state trooper who was assigned to Cuomo's security detail was "credible, deeply troubling, but not criminal under New York law." The trooper said Cuomo touched her inappropriately during a 2019 event at the Belmont Park racetrack, allegedly running the palm of his hand across her stomach, according to the attorney general's report.

On December 28, Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah similarly found allegations by the trooper and another woman "credible," but declined to bring charges. The trooper accused Cuomo of an inappropriate kiss on the cheek at his Mt. Kisco home. The other woman accused him of an inappropriate kiss on the cheek at a high school in nearby White Plains.

The district attorney's offices in Manhattan and Oswego County announced investigations in August, but have not said if those probes will lead to charges. 

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