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Albany DA says he won't prosecute Cuomo on 'forcible touching' charge

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at Rochdale Village

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at Rochdale Village Community Center in Queens on April 5, 2021. Credit: POOL/AFP via Getty Images/BRENDAN MCDERMID

ALBANY — The Albany County district attorney said Tuesday he won’t prosecute a criminal complaint accusing former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of forcibly touching a woman who worked for him while they were in the governor’s mansion.

District Attorney David Soares said he is also asking Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple to dismiss the misdemeanor criminal complaint, which arose amid accusations of sexual harassment against Cuomo that led to his resignation in August.

"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," Soars said in a statement. "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."

The complaint doesn't name the woman, but the incident corresponds with details that Brittany Commisso, a former Cuomo aide, provided in an interview with CBS News in August and in interviews she gave to investigators with the state Attorney General’s Office.

In November, the case had been adjourned until Friday after the Albany County district attorney criticized the complaint brought by the sheriff’s department as "potentially defective."

Cuomo had faced a Nov. 17 court appearance after the Albany County sheriff announced on Oct. 29 that he had an "overwhelming amount of evidence" to issue his criminal complaint.

The complaint accused Cuomo, then 63, of groping a woman's breast and buttocks while in the governor’s mansion in December.

The allegation also was part of an Aug. 3 report by state Attorney General Letitia James that concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including Commisso.

Cuomo has denied sexually harassing anyone. He resigned Aug. 24 as he faced potential impeachment.

Soares had said his office has been investigating the matter "for months" before county Sheriff Craig Apple issued the complaint, which was announced without notifying the district attorney.

Soares went before an Albany City Court judge in November seeking to postpone the court appearance by Cuomo to provide more time to investigate and the judge granted the change. Soares had told the judge that errors made by Apple risked "a procedural dismissal of this case."

There was no immediate comment from Cuomo’s attorney, from Cuomo’s spokesman, or from Commisso's attorney, Brian Premo,.

An attorney who represents two other women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment said the district attorney's decision isn't a surprise.

"Unfortunately, our penal laws and system frequently do not properly punish the acts of so many abusive men in power," said attorney Mariann Wang. "Cuomo’s conduct was nonetheless unlawful and deeply harmful to the women who were subjected to it."

In December, the prosecutors in Westchester and Nassau counties also dropped their separate cases. Each district attorney said the accusations of the women were "credible," but a violation of criminal law couldn't be proven in court.

A state trooper in the governor’s security detail had accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and unwanted touching at an event at Belmont Park. In Westchester County, two women — including the trooper — had accused Cuomo of unwanted kissing.

"Our exhaustive investigation found the allegations credible, deeply troubling, but not criminal under New York law," said acting Nassau District Attorney Joyce Smith last month.

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