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Criminal complaint accuses Andrew Cuomo of forcible touching

Criminal complaint filed against Andrew Cuomo
Criminal complaint filed against Andrew Cuomo... 02:14

A misdemeanor complaint that alleges forcible touching has been filed against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a copy of the document provided to CBS News by the state's court system on Thursday. The news comes after several sexual harassment allegations led Cuomo to resign in August.

The complaint alleges 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 repeatedly denied ever sexually harassing anyone. In a statement to CBS News on Thursday, his attorney Rita Glavin reiterated that denial, writing that "Governor Cuomo has never assaulted anyone." 

The charges appear to stem from allegations made by Cuomo's former aide Brittany Commisso, who said in August that the governor groped her in December 2019 and again in November 2020. 

Commisso told "CBS Mornings" that during the alleged November incident, Cuomo "put his hand up my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra." 

The sheriff's office said in August that it would investigate her claim. 

Cuomo refuted the allegation at the time. "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.' I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing." 

It's not yet clear what led to the Thursday filing of the complaint. According to The Albany Times Union, the court prematurely issued the summons after an investigator "filed paperwork with the court summarizing their investigation and seeking to begin the process of obtaining a criminal complaint." The Times Union said sources familiar with the matter said neither the sheriff's office nor the district attorney had intended to formally file charges on Thursday. 

In a statement to CBS News, the sheriff's office said investigators presented the Albany City Court with "evidence for review to determine the most appropriate legal pathway moving forward on the investigation" after determining "there was enough probable cause to present evidence to the court." The office did not say if it intended to file a complaint, but said Albany City Court issued a criminal summons for Cuomo to appear on November 17. 

Neither the sheriff's office nor the court responded to CBS News' request for clarification. 

The district attorney's office, which will ultimately prosecute any charges, also appeared to be 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," the office said, adding, "Our office will not be commenting further on this case." 

Commisso's attorney Brian Premo told CBS News in a statement that his client was also surprised by the filing, writing that it was her understanding that "the District Attorney's office would conduct a thorough apolitical investigation into the matter and then discuss all relevant issues with my client before any decision was made about whether a criminal action would be commenced only after she gave her informed consent." 

"It was her understanding that the Sheriffs Office had also agreed to that process since the District Attorney is the prosecuting authority," Premo added. "She was surprised by the turn of events but she has been and will remain a resolute cooperating victim in pursuit of blind justice." 

Cuomo's attorney criticized the apparent lack of communication in her statement, writing that Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple's motives "are patently improper." 

"Sheriff Apple didn't even tell the District Attorney what he was doing..." Glavin said. "This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics."

The former governor resigned a week after a report from the state attorney general backed 11 women's claims that the governor sexually harassed them. Though Cuomo has denied all of the allegations of sexual harassment, he has acknowledged that some of his behavior may have made women uncomfortable and apologized for that conduct. At the time, he was facing an impeachment inquiry from the state legislature that included both the allegations and how his administration handled COVID-19 in nursing homes.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose report led to Cuomo's resignation, said the complaint supports the report's findings. Cuomo and his supporters have previously claimed the report was politically motivated. 

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

Jericka Duncan contributed reporting. 

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