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Prosecutor drops groping charge against former N.Y. Gov. Cuomo

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said he made the decision after his office "concluded that we cannot meet our burden at trial."

The Albany County district attorney's office said Tuesday that it is moving to dismiss a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo was scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

"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," District Attorney David Soares said in a statement. "As such we have notified the court that we are declining to prosecute this matter and requesting the charges filed by the Albany County sheriff be dismissed."

Soares' decision was first reported by The Albany Times Union.

Cuomo was hit with the forcible touching complaint last October. It alleged he placed his hand "under the blouse" of a woman and "onto her intimate body part" for "purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires” during a Dec. 7, 2020, encounter at the governor’s mansion.

Cuomo denied the allegations, which were made by an executive assistant in his office, Brittany Commisso, who went public with her identity in days after the complaint was issued. Commisso was one of 11 women who outlined allegations of harassment against the governor in a blistering report by the state attorney general's office that led to Cuomo's resignation in August. Commisso's allegations were the most serious against Cuomo, who could have faced up to a year in jail had he been convicted.

Cuomo was initially scheduled to appear in court on the criminal case in November, but that date was pushed back because of unusual infighting between the Albany district attorney and the sheriff's office.

Soares told the judge hearing the case he wanted more time to weigh the prosecution because his office had not been consulted before the complaint was filed. He said the paperwork contained potential defects.

A judge signed off on the criminal complaint after Sheriff Craig D. Apple Sr. said he presented evidence for the court to “determine the most appropriate legal pathway" for the investigation into Cuomo.

Apple later told reporters that he'd planned on meeting with the district attorney before the complaint was issued and hadn't expected the court to act so quickly. He told reporters they would "roll with it."

The Times Union reported that Commisso was told of the district attorney's decision on Monday.

Her attorney, Brian Premo, told NBC News: “I can confirm only that in this case my client had no control over the filing or prosecution of criminal charges. She had no authority or voice in those decisions. The only thing she has any power over is her resolution to continue to speak the truth and seek justice in an appropriate civil action, which she will do in due course.”

Cuomo's attorney, Rita Glavin, had no immediate comment. She blasted the sheriff in October for pushing ahead with the case, saying, "This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics.”

The Albany district attorney's decision comes on the heels of similar announcements involving allegations by two other accusers by district attorneys in Nassau and Westchester counties. Cuomo was not charged in those cases.

Mariann Wang, who represents two other accusers, Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, said her clients were "disappointed" but not surprised by Soares' decision.

"Unfortunately, our penal laws and system frequently do not properly punish the acts of so many abusive men in power," Wang said.