An Albany City Court judge dismissed the criminal groping case against Andrew Cuomo on Friday as the former New York governor appeared virtually for his first court hearing in the case.
The dismissal was expected, and inevitable, after Albany County District Attorney David Soares said Tuesday that he was declining to prosecute Cuomo, 64, for allegedly forcibly touching female aide Brittany Commisso at the governor’s Executive Mansion in late 2020. The charge is a misdemeanor.
“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,” Soares said Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
Cuomo denied wrongdoing. He said nothing Friday during the brief hearing, where he sat next to his lawyer Rita Glavin from a remote location.
Commisso, 33, earlier this week criticized Soares’ decision to drop the case.
“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 told the Albany Times Union in a statement.
“When will our voices uniformly be accepted? Where do we go to have our rights vindicated? Unfortunately, this is just another example of where our criminal justice system needs to do better,” she said.
The Democrat Cuomo resigned in August, in the middle of his third term, after an investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women, including Commisso.
The Albany criminal case, which was initially filed by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office without Soares’ knowledge in advance, was the only criminal case lodged against Cuomo in connection with the alleged harassment.
Two other county district attorneys, in Westchester and Nassau, recently said they would not prosecute Cuomo for alleged unwanted touching of women in those jurisdictions.
On Monday, Cuomo’s lawyer said that a probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office into the Cuomo administration’s alleged mishandling of Covid-19-related deaths of nursing home patients had ended without any criminal charges.
In a statement later Friday, Cuomo’s spokesman again blasted the probe initiated by James, a Democrat who announced a run for governor after releasing the report, only to drop that campaign months later.
“We have said from the beginning that this entire situation was a political manipulation and would be disproven when a non-corrupted legal review was conducted,” said Rich Azzopardi, the spokesman. “The James report was not a legal review, but a sham to generate a press frenzy and political firestorm to clear the way for her own run for higher office.”
“Three district attorneys have now reviewed James’ report and evidence and have proven that what we said all along was correct — the law was not broken and not a single case has been brought,” he said.
“The Nassau and Westchester District Attorneys found that even if the allegations were credible they did not violate the law,” Azzorpardi said. “Kissing someone on the cheek, patting someone’s stomach as you walk by, taking a photograph with an employee or a wedding guest is not illegal — criminally or civilly. Plaintiff lawyers overplayed their hand, and we will not pay one penny in attempts at civil extortion.”