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Forcible Touching Charge Dismissed Against Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- It's something we don't see very often: A former governor in criminal court.

Andrew Cuomo appeared virtually Friday to face the only criminal charge filed against him in the sexual harassment allegations that drove him from the governor's office.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reports, Cuomo could be seen briefly as he made a virtual appearance in an Albany court, where Judge Holly Drexler dismissed a charge of forcible touching.

Cuomo's attorney Rita Glavin says the case should never have been made.

"Today, reason and the rule of law prevailed, not politics, rhetoric or mob mentality," Glavin said.

Former staffer Brittany Commisso, 33, says the incident happened in the Executive Mansion in Albany.

"He put his hand up my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra. I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself, 'Oh, my God, this is happening,'" Commisso said last summer.

Cuomo insisted he never touched the 33-year-old former staffer.

"You know, at one point, there has to be a little reality. To touch a woman's breast who I hardly know and make myself vulnerable to a woman for such an accusation," Cuomo said.

Attorneys for the Albany DA said "they could not successfully secure a conviction in the case."

Legal experts say it would have been a "he said, she said," and requires proving intent - a high bar for prosecutors.

"The idea that Andrew Cuomo was touching Commisso for his own sexual gratification was something that the DA could not prove in this case," said defense attorney David Schwartz.

A Cuomo spokesman said that now three DAs have declined to press charges, adding "The Nassau and Westchester District Attorneys found that even if the allegations were credible they did not violate the law. Kissing someone on the cheek, patting someone's stomach as you walk by, taking a photograph with an employee or a wedding guest is not illegal -- criminally or civilly."

Comisso's attorney says they will still file a civil suit against Cuomo.

Commisso criticized the decision to dismiss the charges.

"My disappointing experience of re-victimization with the failure to prosecute a serial sexual abuser, no matter what degree the crime committed, yet again sadly highlights the reason victims are afraid to come forward, especially against people in power," Commisso said in a statement to the Times Union of Albany.

Soares, in a radio interview Friday, noted that the attorney general's inquiry didn't have the same legal requirements as a criminal case, and he said prosecutors can't be swayed by public sentiment or "passions."

"It's not for me to engage in any kind of debate with those who aren't equipped with as much information or the obligations that I have. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but there's only one person with a burden of proof, and that's me," he told the WAMC/Northeast Public Radio network.

"I think the more dangerous position is to have a person in my position who will move forward, press forward, with cases because of fear of public backlash," he added.

Soares became the third district attorney to formally decline to prosecute Cuomo. The other two cases related to charges he inappropriately touched a female state trooper assigned to his protective detail.

The Albany prosecutor dropped the case, even though there may have been some small cracks in his assertions.

Cuomo's top aide and one of his chief defenders, secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa, told state investigators that while Cuomo told her he didn't grope Commisso, "He did not deny that he hugged her."

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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