Judge dismisses groping case against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

A judge on Friday dismissed the only criminal case filed against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in connection with the allegations of sexual harassment that drove him from office.

The move was expected after Albany County prosecutors said they could not prove the case and would drop it, and Cuomo’s lawyers asked the court to agree.

Cuomo, a Democrat who rejected the claim, did not speak during Friday’s virtual hearing, which lasted just a few minutes. Wearing a black mask, he was briefly visible at the video conference when a defense attorney moved slightly on her camera to show him in the room.

“We have reviewed all available evidence and concluded that we can not secure a conviction in this case,” said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer McCanney.

Judge Holly Trexler said she was “acutely aware of the fact that the district attorney’s office has unlimited discretion in deciding whether a particular person or case should be prosecuted.”

The rejection of the charge, which accused Cuomo of groping an aide in the executive mansion in 2020, removes what had been seen as the most serious legal threat to the former governor. He said he never touched anyone inappropriately.

He could still face trials over his behavior if his prosecutors choose to take him to court.

The complaint was lodged by the local sheriff in October, two months after Cuomo resigned.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares told Trexler this week that even though the aide was credible and some evidence supported her account, he believed he could not win a verdict in court.

The charges against Cuomo were based on allegations by Brittany Commisso, who said Cuomo slipped his hand up her blouse and grabbed her chest as they were alone in an office in the mansion.

Her testimony was among the most condemning in a report released in August by Democratic Attorney General Letitia James, who concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women.

Cuomo resigned that month. He has called the report unfair and has vehemently rejected the groping claim.

Soares has said he was surprised when Sheriff Craig Apple, a fellow Democrat, filed a coercive indictment without consulting the prosecution. Soares called it “potentially defective” and moved to delay Cuomo’s prosecution, which was originally scheduled for November.

In a letter to Trexler on Tuesday, Soares said that “statutory elements of New York law make this case impossible to prove.” He added that several government investigations into Cuomo’s behavior had created “technical and procedural barriers” regarding prosecutors’ obligations to disclose evidence to the defense.

Some legal experts said Soares’ decision illustrated the difficulty of prosecuting sex offenders. But others said he should have moved on if he considered the prosecutor credible.

Commisso was among the critics.

“My disappointing experience of re-victimization with the failure to prosecute a serial sexual abuser, regardless of the degree to which the crime was committed, once again sadly highlights the reason why victims are afraid to stand up, especially against those in power,” said Commisso in a statement to the Times Union of Albany.

The Associated Press does not identify individuals who say they have been sexually abused unless they decide to tell their stories in public, as Commisso has done in interviews.

Soares noted in a radio interview Friday that the state attorney’s investigation did not have the same legal requirements as a criminal case, and he said prosecutors cannot be influenced by public sentiment or “passions.”

“It is not my job to engage in any kind of debate with those who are not equipped with as much information or the commitments that I have. “Everyone has the right to an opinion, but there is only one person with the burden of proof, and that is me,” he told the WAMC / Northeast Public Radio network.

“I think the more dangerous position is to have someone in my position who will move forward, push forward with cases because of fear of public setbacks,” he added.

Two prosecutors in the New York suburbs each announced last month that Cuomo would not be prosecuted for charges involving other women who said they had been subjected to unwanted kisses or touches.


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