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Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a criminal complaint. But he's still unlikely to be charged.

District attorneys who decide to charge a sitting governor risk political suicide if they fail.

According to a report New York Attorney General Letitia James released earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in violation of state and federal law. On Friday, his former executive assistant filed a criminal complaint against him. Many are now expecting Cuomo to face criminal charges for the conduct described in the report.

He might, but he probably won’t.

There’s no question that some of the conduct described in the report could fit the definition of certain crimes in New York.

There’s no question that some of the conduct described in the report could fit the definition of certain crimes in New York. For example, the report describes that during a “close hug” with the assistant who filed the complaint, Cuomo “reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast.” Cuomo has denied ever inappropriately touching anyone and disputes accusations of sexual harassment.

In New York, a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor when that person “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose … forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another,” actions that include squeezing, grabbing or pinching someone’s breasts, “for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor's sexual desire.”

A person is also guilty of a Class B misdemeanor when they subject someone to sexual contact without consent. “Sexual contact” is broadly defined as “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire” and can include touching through clothing.

Even though this sounds like the conduct described in the report, at James’ news conference Tuesday, she indicated that her office — a law enforcement agency — would not be bringing criminal charges. If the AG had no doubt that crimes were committed, in addition to violations of civil rights law, she probably would have said so, or at least signaled she might be bringing those charges herself. But she’s not.

Now, several district attorneys have requested additional investigative information from the state's probe, saying they will determine whether incidents that occurred in their jurisdictions amount to crimes. The former executive assistant’s complaint, filed with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, puts even more pressure on the Albany district attorney’s office to consider charges, including those of forcible touching or sexual abuse. But a citizen’s complaint does not automatically result in a criminal case. Nor do the conclusions in the AG’s report.

On Friday afternoon, Cuomo’s lawyers held a news conference showing part of the reason why local prosecutors should not make charging decisions based on the report alone. Cuomo’s counsel made a presentation criticizing the state attorney general’s report and effectively driving home an important maxim in criminal law: The report is only one side of the story. It may be chock-full of damning details, but it was released with no future adjudication in mind, and its allegations have not been through the critical, adversarial process that is the criminal justice system.

Cuomo’s attorneys gave would-be prosecutors a sneak preview of what a defense would look like should criminal charges be brought, and it wasn’t just a flat, boilerplate denial. They brought their own evidence, which included e-mails, alternate timelines and their own potential witnesses. They complained that some of the exculpatory evidence was ignored by the AG’s investigators. Some of what they presented, if true, could cast doubt on the witness accounts in the report.

Cuomo just sent a powerful message: If prosecutors base criminal charges on the AG report alone, without doing their own investigation, they do so at their own political peril. And if local prosecutors think the doubt that Cuomo’s attorneys cast on the witness accounts is reasonable, then they’re going to think twice before taking on the governor and his very able counsel.

After all, district attorneys who decide to charge a sitting governor risk political suicide if they fail. They may decide it’s safer for them to announce they will do their due diligence, carry out a thorough investigation, run out the clock and hope this all fades away. It probably won’t.

James’ office released its own statement shortly after Cuomo’s attorneys’ news conference, declaring that a rolling production of interview transcripts would be made available to the State Assembly, though they will be “redacted as needed.” That answers the Cuomo camp’s demand for transparency.

On the other hand, the AG’s office characterized the Cuomo team as “attack[ing] this investigation and attempt[ing] to undermine and politicize this process,” which it said “takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.” That part is not accurate. Cuomo’s attorneys’ investigation of these allegations does not diminish the bravery of these women at all. It is just testing the veracity of their stories; presumably the AG’s investigators did the same thing. If the AG is convinced they told the truth, she should welcome any investigation, especially one that demonstrates the veracity of the allegations.

The governor has one other kind of legal exposure unique to his position: impeachment. New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine has announced his committee’s investigation is nearing completion and the Assembly will soon consider the possibility of articles of impeachment against Cuomo.

Procedurally, impeachment proceedings are completely unrelated to criminal proceedings. But an impeachment of Cuomo might take the pressure off of district attorneys investigating potential criminal conduct if there’s a perception that the governor is being held to account, at least in some way.