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Cuomo's tenure nears end, but his legal headaches may have just begun

Cuomo could face civil suits and criminal charges stemming from the sexual harassment allegations. He is also the target of other investigations.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has resigned, but his legal headaches are far from over.

Cuomo on Tuesday said he'd step down in 14 days after a damning report from the state’s attorney general documenting accusations of sexual harassment from nearly a dozen women. But he could still face civil suits and criminal charges stemming from those allegations.

“He faces potential civil liability, assuming statutes of limitations have not expired,” NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said, adding that Cuomo also “does face potential criminal liability.”

Cuomo remains the subject of other serious investigations, including whether his office was involved in the underreporting of the state’s Covid-19 death toll in nursing homes and whether he misused state resources to write and promote a book about how he handled the pandemic.

Sexual harassment criminal and civil suits

New York state Attorney General Letitia James' report on Cuomo details allegations of sexual harassment made by 11 women, nine of whom were state employees.

Any of the women who have already come forward with allegations, or anyone who may come forward in the future with allegations, has the right to file a civil suit against Cuomo for damages.

In addition, Cuomo remains the target of ongoing criminal probes, launched after James released her report.

Five district attorneys in the state have seized on details in James’ report — in Albany, Nassau, Oswego and Westchester counties, as well as in the borough of Manhattan — and are either investigating whether Cuomo violated any criminal statutes or have requested investigative materials from James’ office.

The most serious investigation, NBC News correspondent Tom Winter said Tuesday, was in Albany County, where Cuomo is accused of groping an executive assistant. The assistant filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo with the county sheriff’s office, a spokesperson for the sheriff told NBC News.

The staffer, Brittany Commisso, came forward publicly in an interview with CBS and the Times Union of Albany that was released Monday. If Cuomo were arrested and charged in connection with the accusation, he could be arrested. The most likely charge would be a Class A misdemeanor, Winter reported.

Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing and disputed many of the allegations against him.

Cevallos, meanwhile, noted that James’ report had not been subjected to the “crucible of cross-examination,” meaning that official criminal investigations, unlike James’ report, would be held to a much heavier degree of scrutiny that is necessary in the legal process.

“You may believe every word in the report,” Cevallos said. But “once it goes through the adversarial process and witnesses are cross-examined, that’s where you find out if this is a case prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Nursing home scandal

Cuomo is also facing the fallout from a months-old probe into how his administration handled the recording of nursing home Covid-19 deaths.

In January, James' office issued a report that found that the state health department had underreported the Covid-19 death toll in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. A top Cuomo aide was then caught on tape telling Democratic legislators that the administration took months to release the full data about nursing home residents in part because of worries that the information was "going to be used against us" by the Trump administration.

The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI began a preliminary investigation into how the Cuomo administration handled the data. The investigations are still open.

Cuomo was then accused in mid-February of having threatened to "destroy" a Democratic lawmaker who had alleged that the administration "covered up" the nursing home numbers. Cuomo has denied any cover-up.

Book writing questions

James' office has been investigating whether the governor misused state resources to write and promote a book he published last October about his leadership during the height of the pandemic.

Image: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo walks to his helicopter after announcing his resignation in Manhattan, New York City
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo walks to his helicopter after announcing his resignation in New York on Tuesday.Caitlin Ochs / Reuters

Cuomo was paid more than $5.1 million for the book — titled "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic” — a sum that far exceeds the $225,000-a-year salary he makes as governor, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy.

In April, the state comptroller's office authorized the state attorney general to investigate whether Cuomo used staffers and state resources to assist in writing the book, which is prohibited by state law.

Cuomo has insisted that any work by state employees on the book was voluntary. A spokesman for Cuomo told NBC News in May that any work on the book was "in compliance with state ethics laws and done on their personal time."

James said last week, during her news conference announcing the release of her office’s report on the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, that the investigation into whether the governor used state resources to help him write the book was “ongoing.”

“The investigation, with respect to the book and whether or not public resources were utilized, is ongoing and it’s separate and apart from this investigation,” James said.