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Albany sheriff says he won't rush or delay Cuomo investigation 'because of who he is'

An executive assistant, who accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her and reaching under her blouse, filed a criminal complaint against him.

The Albany County, New York, sheriff said Saturday that he is in the early stages of investigating a criminal complaint filed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive assistant.

Although the content of the complaint was not made public, the woman has alleged that the governor groped her and reached under her blouse. She filed the complaint Thursday with the sheriff's office.

"I cannot get into the nature of her specific allegations at this time. Obviously, we're in the very infant stages of this investigation," Sheriff Craig Apple told reporters during a press conference.

The sheriff went on to say that his office has not yet spoken to the governor and he could not say how long the investigation could take.

"This is obviously a very high-profile investigation. There’s a lot of information out there," Apple said. "We have a lot of fact-finding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do and, you know what, I’m not going to rush it because of who he is and I’m not going to delay because of who he is. We’re going to conduct a very comprehensive investigation, as my investigators and my staff always do.”

The woman's allegations, along with many others, were included in state Attorney General Letitia James' report that Cuomo allegedly sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and violated state and federal laws.

The 165-page report claimed that Cuomo's interaction with the assistant "escalated" overtime to "more intimate physical contact" including regular hugs and kisses on the cheek and at least one kiss on the lips. The interactions culminated in an incident in November 2020 at Cuomo's mansion in Albany when he "reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast," the report alleged.

The woman, identified in the report as "Executive Assistant #1," stayed silent about what happened and had planned to take it "to the grave," according to the report. She came forward after she became emotional while watching a March 3, 2021, press conference in which Cuomo said he had never touched anyone inappropriately, James' report stated.

The woman told her colleagues about the incident and they reported the allegations to senior staff, according to the report. Brian Premo, an attorney for the assistant, previously said that his client met with a sheriff's office investigator and discussed the claims in James' report. The woman was told that the sheriff's office would coordinate with the Albany County District Attorney David Soares' office moving forward, Premo said.

Andrew Cuomo talks on the phone while walking with his dog Captain at the New York state Executive Mansion on August 7, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.Hans Pennink / AP

Throughout Saturday's press conference, the sheriff repeatedly referred to the woman as a "victim." When questioned about using that term, Apple referenced James' report.

“I think we’ve all read the attorney general’s report. I think we know what’s in it. At this point, I’m very comfortable and safe saving that she is in fact a victim," he said. "And again, I commend all of them for coming forward.”

Cuomo has not been charged with any crimes. When asked Saturday about possible charges, Apple said: “I don’t think that would be proper for me to answer at this point. What I have read so far I can say that we’re floating around a misdemeanor."

"But again that’s just from the attorney general’s report," he continued, adding that his office has not had an in-depth interview with the accuser.

After Apple's press conference, James' office issued a statement.

“We will cooperate fully with the Albany sheriff and turn over all evidence related to this complainant," her office said in the statement. "Similarly, we will cooperate with all law enforcement agencies, as appropriate."

District Attorney Soares had previously started investigating the allegations into Cuomo but told NBC News' Lester Holt this week that his office temporarily suspended the probe while James conducted her investigation.

Soares said he asked the attorney general to send him the evidence she finds and also urged any victims to come forward.

The governor, who is ignoring calls to resign, has vehemently denied the assistant's allegations and disputed all of the claims in James' report. In an 85-page document released by Cuomo's office, he called the assistant's account "inconceivable."

"It would be a pure act of insanity for the Governor — who is 63 years old and lives his life under a microscope — to grab an employee’s breast in the middle of the workday at his Mansion Office. This simply did not happen," the document stated.

Rita Glavin, an attorney for the governor, has also pushed back at James' investigation of the assistant's allegations. Glavin claimed that the attorney general ignored contradictory statements the assistant made to the Albany Times Union.

"This was one-sided," Glavin said of James' report.

Fabien Levy, a spokesman for James, said the assistant's account, as well as those of the other women in the report, "have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence."

"To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women," Levy said.

The allegations against the governor have led to the district attorney offices in Westchester and Manhattan also reaching out to James in regards to incidents alleged to have occurred in their jurisdictions.

Glavin said that Cuomo, who denied the allegations to investigators, would address the claims publicly soon.