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Judge dismisses criminal charge against former N.Y. governor Andrew Cuomo

The disgraced former governor attended the hearing remotely.
Then Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at his Midtown Manhattan office on Sept. 14, 2018.
Then Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at his Midtown Manhattan office on Sept. 14, 2018.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

An Albany judge on Friday officially tossed a misdemeanor forcible touching charge against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who'd been accused of groping an executive assistant in the governor's mansion in December of 2020.

"The complaint is hereby dismissed," Judge Holly Trexler said after a brief hearing in Albany City Court. Cuomo, who resigned in August amid multiple sexual harassment allegations, attended the hearing remotely while wearing a black face mask.

In a brief statement after the hearing, Cuomo lawyer Rita Glavin ripped Cuomo's accuser, Brittany Commisso, and the Albany sheriff who filed the criminal complaint.

“As the governor said, this simply did not happen,” Glavin said.

“No jury would have found Ms. Commisso credible. That’s why this case was dismissed,” she said, while calling Sheriff Craig Apple an "astonishingly unprofessional and rogue sheriff.”

Apple and a lawyer for Commisso did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

District Attorney David Soares announced he was dropping the case earlier this week.

"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," Soares said in a statement Tuesday. "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."

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.

Cuomo was hit with the forcible touching complaint by the Albany sheriff in October of last year. It alleged he placed his hand "under the blouse" of a woman and "onto her intimate body part" during a Dec. 7, 2020, encounter at the governor’s mansion.

Cuomo denied the allegations. Commisso went public with her identity in the days after the complaint was issued.

She 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.

The case imploded after infighting between the DA and Apple. The sheriff filed the complaint without consulting with the DA, who would prosecute the case. Soares said his office had been conducting its own investigation. Prosecutor Jennifer McCanney told the judge the DA's probe led them to conclude "we could not successfully secure a conviction in this case."

A spokesman for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, said the decisions by the district attorneys have "discredited" the conclusions of the sexual harassment report from Attorney General Letitia James's office. “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," Azzopardi said, referring to James' short-lived gubernatorial campaign.

James dropped out of the race for Cuomo's old job last month.

Azzopardi said Cuomo would vigorously defend any civil suits by his accusers, saying in his statement that "we will not pay one penny in attempts at civil extortion."

He also suggested that Cuomo might be taking some sort of action himself.

“For the last several weeks, we have remained silent while the process played itself out - do not confuse our respect for the justice system with acquiescence," Azzopardi said.

“Stay tuned."