The Albany County, New York, District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday said it was dropping a misdemeanor criminal charge filed against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo related to a claim he forcibly touched a female aide in the governor’s mansion in December 2020.
The announcement came just three days before Cuomo, 63, was due to appear in court for the first time in the case based on the allegation by his former executive assistant Brittany Commisso. And it came nearly two weeks after the Nassau County D.A. declined to prosecute Cuomo for unwanted touching of a female state trooper at a Long Island event in 2019.
Albany D.A. David Soares said Tuesday, “While many have an opinion regarding the allegations against the former Governor, the Albany County DA’s Office is the only one who has a burden to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“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,” Soares said.
“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,” said Soares, who had chafed at the filing of the case by the sheriff without forewarning to Soares in October.
Commisso’s lawyer Brian Premo, told NBC News that “my client had no control over the filing or prosecution of criminal charges.”
“She had no authority or voice in those decisions,” Premo said. “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.”
Cuomo, who denied wrongdoing, had faced a possible sentence of up to a year in prison and three years of probation if convicted of the Class A misdemeanor charge.
Then-Acting Nassau County D.A. Joyce Smith on Dec. 23 said she would not file charges against Cuomo in connection with allegations that he ran the palm of his left hand across the stomach of a trooper in his protective detail in September 2019 at Belmont Racetrack.
“Our exhaustive investigation found the allegations credible, deeply troubling, but not criminal under New York law,” Smith said in a statement that day. “It is important to note that our investigation was limited to alleged conduct at Belmont Racetrack, and prosecutors in other jurisdictions continue to review other allegations of misconduct by Mr. Cuomo.”
The Albany complaint was lodged two months after the three-term incumbent Democrat resigned on the heels of a damning report commissioned by the New York Attorney General’s Office that found he had sexually harassed nearly a dozen women. Commisso was one of those women.
The criminal complaint said that on Dec. 7, 2020, when the Commisso visited him in the Executive Mansion in Albany, Cuomo intentionally, “and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place 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,” the complaint said.
In November, Soares told a judge the complaint was “potentially defective” because it excluded key testimony from Cuomo’s accuser, and because parts of the complaint misstated “the relevant law.”
But Soares’ office until Tuesday had not indicated it would drop the case.
“I, like most New Yorkers, remain deeply troubled by allegations like the ones at issue here. Such conduct has no place in government or in any workplace,” Soares said Tuesday.
“Although avenues for criminal prosecution in these cases are sometimes limited, I encourage victims of workplace harassment and abuse to continue to come forward and bring these issues to light so that these important discussions can continue.”
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