Judge dismisses criminal groping case against Andrew Cuomo
NEW YORK - A judge dismissed the only criminal charge filed against the Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in connection with the sexual harassment allegations that drove him from office. It took place during a virtual appearance on Friday afternoon.
Charges were first filed against the former governor after his assistant, Brittany Commisso, testified that Cuomo summoned her to his residence on Dec. 7, 2020, asking for Commisso's help with technical issues. She then alleges that Cuomo reached under her blouse and groped her breast.
The misdemeanor complaint was filed by the local sheriff in October. Albany County District Attorney David Soares told Judge Holly Trexler earlier this week that although the aide was credible, and some evidence supported her account, he believed he couldn't win a conviction in court.
Soares and Cuomo's attorney each asked the judge to dismiss the complaint. With an arraignment already scheduled, the judge said Cuomo and the attorneys should appear virtually. The judge will preside over the proceeding from an Albany courtroom with the lawyers participating via videoconference.
Commisso' testimony was among the most damning in a report released in August by Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James that concluded Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.
Cuomo resigned that month. He has called the report unfair and has vehemently denied the groping allegation.
Soares has said he was caught by surprise when Sheriff Craig Apple, a fellow Democrat, filed the forcible touching complaint without consulting the prosecutor's office. Soares called it "potentially defective" and moved to delay Cuomo’s arraignment, originally set for November.
In a letter to Trexler on Tuesday, Soares said "statutory elements of New York law make this case impossible to prove." He added that multiple government inquiries into Cuomo’s conduct had created "technical and procedural hurdles" regarding prosecutors’ obligations to disclose evidence to the defense.
Some legal experts said Soares’ decision illustrated the difficulties of prosecuting sex crime allegations. But others said he should have proceeded if he considered the accuser credible.
Commisso was among the critics.
"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.
Two prosecutors in the New York City suburbs separately announced last month that Cuomo would not face charges for allegations involving other women who said they had been subjected to unwanted kisses or touches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.