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NY authorities drop groping charge against Andrew Cuomo

The Albany district attorney is the latest to say sexual harassment allegations against the former governor are credible but don’t meet the bar for criminal prosecution. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — A top prosecutor asked the sheriff for Albany County on Tuesday to dismiss a misdemeanor forcible touching charge against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Among the multiple reports against Cuomo that precipitated his resignation in August, the allegation at issue came from from a former female aide of the governor's who said he reached up her shirt and groped her breast at the governor’s executive mansion in December 2020. 

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said he couldn’t prove the case in court. 

“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 in a statement. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James noted the case in August when she released the results of her five-month investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Cuomo, holding up 11 women’s accounts as credible. 

Days later, the former executive assistant to the governor who says Cuomo groped her identified herself as Brittany Commisso and filed criminal a criminal complaint.

The Albany county sheriff's office in turn charged Cuomo with a class A misdemeanor of forcible touching, alleging that he touched the victim’s left breast “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires.”

Cuomo had been scheduled to answer a court summons three days from now. Soares had previously delayed the arraignment, noting the sheriff had “unilaterally and inexplicably” filed the complaint in the middle of an investigation, and that it was “potentially defective” since it failed to include a sworn statement by the victim. 

Commisso accused Cuomo, 64, of 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 attorney general's 168-page report

“To me and the other women that he did this to, oh, it was not normal,” Commisso later said on “CBS This Morning.” “It was not welcomed, and it was certainly not consensual.”

Cuomo denies the allegations against him. 

“I would have to lose my mind to do some — such a thing,” he told attorneys investigating him in July, according to interview transcripts later released. “It would be an act of insanity to touch a woman’s breast and make myself vulnerable to a woman for such an accusation."

Without support from fellow New Yorkers, however, and after President Joe Biden called for his resignation, Cuomo stepped down in August. 

Westchester and Nassau prosecutors undertook separate criminal sexual harassment investigations, but these never bore charges. In statements that Albany’s Soares would later echo, the district attorneys in both counties said the accusations against Cuomo were credible but did not meet the bar for criminal prosecution.  

“I, like most New Yorkers, remain deeply troubled by allegations like the ones at issue here,” 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.”

The Albany decision is more good news this week for Cuomo: On Monday, his former attorney said the Manhattan district attorney won’t bring charges against the former governor for allegedly underreporting the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the state’s nursing homes.  

Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, did not return a request for comment on Tuesday. 

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