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Cuomo faces criminal sexual harassment complaint from ex-aide

The demand for felony charges comes from a woman who previously expected to take her alleged groping experience with the New York governor “to the grave,” according to an independent investigation that found 11 total victims.

ALBANY (CN) — An aide who accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of groping her breast at the governor’s executive mansion filed a criminal complaint against him, the Albany County Sheriff’s office said Friday.

As detailed in a scathing investigative report made public on Tuesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the unnamed woman says that harassment occurred on Nov. 16 last year at the Executive Mansion in Albany. During a hug, she says, Cuomo reached under her blouse during a hug and fondled one of her breasts.

The criminal complaint, filed Thursday with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, marks the first known instance in Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal in which an accuser has filed an official report with a law enforcement agency over alleged misconduct by the 63-year-old Democratic governor.

Sheriff Craig Apple told the New York Post that Cuomo could potentially be arrested if investigators or the Albany County district attorney conclude that he committed a crime.

“The end result could either be it sounds substantiated and an arrest is made and it would be up to the DA to prosecute the arrest,” he told the newspaper, which was the first to report on the complaint. “Just because of who it is we are not going to rush it or delay it,” Apple told the New York Post.

While a representative for Albany County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Courthouse News on Friday that the criminal complaint had been received, there is no additional information available about the open criminal investigation.

The aide who says Cuomo reached under her blouse during a hug is identified as “Executive Assistant #1" in the attorney general’s report, which also quotes her as alleging that Cuomo engaged in a pattern of inappropriate conduct that included close and intimate hugs; kisses on the cheeks, forehead, and at least one kiss on the lips; and touching and grabbing of her butt during hugs, once while posing for “selfie” photographs together.

According to the report, the aide intended to take her experiences of harassment by the governor “to the grave,” but found herself becoming emotional while watching Cuomo state, at a press conference on March 3, 2021, that he had never “touched anyone inappropriately."

She then disclosed the incidents in confidence to her colleagues, who in turn reported her allegations to senior staff in the Executive Chamber.

The three-term governor, who was extolled as a clear-headed public hero last year for his handling of the coronavirus in the state of New York, has denied any inappropriate touching.

Friday afternoon, at a press conference conducted via Zoom, Cuomo's personal attorney Rita Glavin was joined by attorneys Paul Fishman of Arnold and Porter and Mitra Hormozi of Walden Mocht and Haran, who are representing the Office of the Governor.

Glavin claimed that Cuomo's team had been blindsided Tuesday by the release of report. Stating that Cuomo and the Executive Chamber need to prepare their defense before the Assembly's judiciary committee, Glavin urged the Attorney General's Office to release the transcripts of any interviews conducted as part of the investigation.

"Look, the whole world is watching right now. People are not going to be retaliated against by Governor Cuomo," Glavin said. "But what we have to be able to do is examine evidence and be able to make a case for our client.

“Otherwise to the extent that the Assembly wants to move forward with impeachment, you know have an impossible standard for us because we’re not given access to the evidence," Glavin said.

New York Attorney General James did not conduct the five-month long probe herself but rather referred it to independent counsel after multiple women alleged groping, sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. The 168-page report found that Cuomo had touched women without their consent and made sexually suggestive and gender-based comments, in violation of multiple federal and state laws.

Fabien Levy, press secretary and senior adviser to New York Attorney General Letitia James, defended the independence and credibility of the state's probe and its findings.

"To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women," Levy said in a statement Friday afternoon on behalf of the attorney general's office. “There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate."

Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie promised Tuesday, after the report was released, to expedite the state’s ongoing impeachment proceedings.

“It is abundantly clear to me that the governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office,” Heastie had said.

The following day, the Manhattan district attorney contacted the Attorney General’s Office to begin requesting investigative materials in their possession pertaining to “potential sex crimes” that happened at the governor’s office in Midtown Manhattan. The district attorneys for neighboring Westchester and Nassau counties made similar respective requests to the attorney general as well.

Cuomo’s impeachment would be administered by the state Assembly, which hired the private firm Davis Polk & Wardwell to conduct the assembly’s own investigation into Cuomo’s alleged misconduct while waiting for Attorney General James to complete her investigation first.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee, the group in charge of leading the impeachment investigation, will convene on Monday, Aug. 9, with investigators from Davis Polk & Wardwell to receive an update on where things stand.

The Assembly set an Aug 13 deadline for Cuomo and his legal team to provide additional evidence in the governor's defense.

Cuomo, who is up re-election in 2022, hired attorney Rita Glavin to handle his defense.

Rich Azzopardi, director of communications and senior adviser to Cuomo, confirmed Thursday that Cuomo’s camp will be cooperating with the assembly’s impeachment proceedings.

"The Assembly has said it is doing a full and thorough review of the complaints and has offered the governor and his team an opportunity to present facts and their perspective,” Azzopardi wrote in a statement. “The governor appreciates the opportunity.”

Follow Josh Russell on Twitter

Categories: Civil Rights Criminal Government

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