Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been charged with forcible touching, a misdemeanor sex crime, according to documents filed in an Albany City Court on Thursday.
The criminal complaint alleges that Cuomo placed his hand "under the blouse" of the victim and "onto her intimate body part" for "purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires.” The incident allegedly occurred on Dec. 7, 2020, at the governor’s mansion.
The charge is a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail or three years probation. A criminal summons has been issued for Cuomo to appear in court on Nov. 17, Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple Sr. said.
Apple said that his agency went to the court Thursday with evidence for the court to “determine the most appropriate legal pathway" for the investigation into Cuomo. But Albany County District Attorney David Soares, whose office would prosecute the case, said he was "surprised to learn" the county sheriff's office had filed the complaint. He declined further comment.
Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin said her client “never assaulted anyone," and pointed to the confusion between the DA and the sheriff. "Sheriff Apple didn’t even tell the District Attorney what he was doing," Glavin said. "This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics.”
A 165-page report issued by state Attorney General Letitia James in August alleged that Cuomo had sexually harassed or inappropriately touched 11 women, including an executive assistant who described being groped at the governor's mansion.
James' report said Cuomo's interaction with the assistant "escalated" over time 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 the incident at the mansion, when Cuomo allegedly "reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast," the report alleged.
The criminal complaint does not identify the victim.
The woman identified as "Executive Assistant 1" in the James report, Brittany Commisso, went public with her identity in the days after it was issued, and filed a complaint with the Albany sheriff's office about the alleged groping in August. She told "CBS This Morning" that she thought what Cuomo did to her "was a crime." "He broke the law," she said.
Cuomo has denied the groping allegation, and his attorney has questioned the timeline of events laid out about Commisso's account in the James report. He resigned a week after James' report was released amid impeachment threats and pressure from top Democrats, including President Joe Biden.
"The criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report," James said in a statement on Thursday.
The filing was first reported by the website New York Focus.
Word of the criminal action was celebrated by Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing two other alleged harassment victims.
"Cuomo is being held to account as he should be, including by being forced to answer a criminal charge," Wang said in a statement.
"We hope that all men who abuse their power by abusing women will see this and understand that there will be real consequences to their profoundly damaging behavior."