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Cuomo groping charge ‘potentially defective,’ says Albany DA, delays the former governor’s arraignment

The Albany County District Attorney told a state judge on Friday that his office had been investigating allegations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo for several months and sought an adjournment of Cuomo's arraignment on a recent misdemeanor complaint "in order to reduce the risk of a procedural dismissal of this case."

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — The misdemeanor sex crime charge unexpectedly filed last week against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office is “potentially defective,” district attorney David Soares wrote in a court filing on Friday, delaying the arraignment of the disgraced former governor for two months.

“We were in the middle of that investigation when the Sheriff unilaterally and inexplicably filed a complaint in this court,” Soares wrote in a letter to Judge Holly Trexler, which stated his office had been investigating the matter for several months.

“Unfortunately, the filings in this matter are potentially defective in that the police-officer-complainant failed to include a sworn statement by the victim such that the People could proceed with a prosecution on these papers,” Soares wrote.

The single-page complaint, signed by an investigator in the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, accused Cuomo, 63, of reaching under a woman’s shirt and groping her breast on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2020, on the second floor of the governor's executive mansion in Albany.

The complaint, made public last Thursday, charged Cuomo with a class A misdemeanor of forcible touching, for touching the victim’s left breast “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires.”

The court summons last week had required Cuomo to appear for an arraignment on Nov. 17, but the Albany County District Attorney advised Judge Trexler in a letter on Friday that the criminal filings by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office are “potentially defective,” and asked for an adjournment.

Soares stated that his office had been investigating the matter for several months and asked for the adjournment "in order to reduce the risk of a procedural dismissal of this case."

Judge Trexler granted the postponement of Cuomo’s arraignment until Jan. 7, 2022

Through his attorney, Rita Glavin, Cuomo has denied the allegation.

The complaint did not name the woman, but she has identified herself as Brittany Commisso, who worked as one of Cuomo’s executive assistants before he resigned amid sexual harassment allegations in August.

Forcible touching is a misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to a year in jail, though many cases for first-time offenders are resolved with probation or a shorter jail sentence.

Soares was first elected Albany County District Attorney on Nov. 2, 2004.  He is now serving his fourth term as district attorney in Albany County.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told reporters last week that he did not anticipate the hasty rollout of the charges, but promised an “overwhelming amount of evidence.”

“We kind of got sandbagged ourselves, and I kind of feel bad about how it happened,” he told reporters at a briefing last Friday.

The Albany Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to Courthouse News’ request for comment Friday evening.

Cuomo's resignation came a week after state Attorney General Letitia James released the results of an independent investigation on Aug. 3, finding that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. The Democratic Cuomo had been elected three times and previously planned to seek a fourth term in the 2022 election.

One day after the misdemeanor charge was brought against Cuomo, James announced her run for governor in 2022, confirming wide speculation that she would make a bid for the state’s top elected office.

Cuomo allies have said that, with her eyes on a gubernatorial run, the attorney general’s investigations into Cuomo were politically motivated.

“The fact that the AG — as predicted — is about to announce a run for governor is lost on no one,”  Cuomo’s senior adviser and longtime spokesman, Rich Azzopardi said last week.

Azzopardi also penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News in August defending Cuomo as a victim of a conspiracy by the “socialist wing of the Democratic Party."

“With respect to the impending transition of power in the state Capitol, the answer is simple: Gov. Cuomo was railroaded," Azzopardi wrote amid a wave of staff departures.

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