New York judge dismisses sole criminal charge faced by former governor Andrew Cuomo after sexual misconduct allegation
By Sonia Moghe, CNN
(CNN) -- An Albany City Court judge on Friday dismissed a forcible touching complaint against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who briefly appeared virtually in court in his first public appearance since stepping down as governor.
Albany City Court Judge Holly Trexler presided over the hearing that lasted fewer than 10 minutes. She heard from assistant district attorney Jennifer McCanney, who said she would not oppose Cuomo's lawyer's motion to dismiss the complaint.
"This court is acutely aware that the fact that the district attorney's office has unfettered discretion to determine whether to prosecute a particular suspect or case, and that superior courts have long and consistently held that courts may not and should not interfere with the discretion of a district attorney," Trexler said.
The woman behind the charge, Brittany Commisso, was one of 11 accusers who spoke to investigators hired by New York Attorney General Letitia James' office to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by the former governor. CNN has reached out to an attorney for Commisso for comment.
At a news conference shortly after the hearing, Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin said, "Today, reason and the rule of law prevailed. Not politics, rhetoric or mob mentality."
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple's office filed the misdemeanor charge in October, alleging the former governor reached under the shirt of and groped a woman who worked as his executive assistant in late 2020. But in November, Albany District Attorney David Soares signaled issues with the case, calling the complaint that was filed "potentially defective." He said the complaint misstated the relevant law, did not include a sworn statement from the alleged victim and failed to include pieces of testimony from the accuser that could have been seen as potentially exculpatory. Cuomo has consistently denied the allegations against him.
On Tuesday, Soares filed a letter saying his office would not proceed with the charge, saying it was "impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court" despite finding Commisso "credible."
Both the Westchester and Nassau County district attorneys recently concluded their investigations into allegations against Cuomo without charges for the former governor, with both offices calling the allegations against him "credible" but not able to be charged under New York law.
Manhattan DA won't criminally charge former governor
In the latest investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the governor to close, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office decided in recent weeks that it would not criminally charge Cuomo after two women claimed that he touched them inappropriately, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The source said the decision not to charge the former governor came under outgoing District Attorney Cy Vance's administration, before newly sworn in District Attorney Alvin Bragg took office on January 1.
CNN reached out Friday to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office for comment, as well as to a spokesman for Cuomo. The former governor has consistently denied the allegations against him.
The DA's investigation focused on state employees including a state trooper who served on Cuomo's protective detail. The first time the trooper remembered being touched in an unwelcome way by Cuomo, they were at his New York City office when Cuomo allegedly "placed his finger on the top of her neck and ran his finger down the center of her spine midway down her back," and said, "Hey you," according to a New York attorney general investigators' report.
The report states that in his testimony, Cuomo denied that he ever purposely touched the trooper on her stomach, as he also had been accused of, or ran his fingers down her back.
Another woman whose allegation the Manhattan District Attorney's Office looked into was an unidentified state entity employee. She testified that in September 2019, Cuomo intentionally touched her buttocks "in an unwelcome manner" while the two were taking a photograph together during a work event.
The investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office into the two women's allegations was confirmed in an August 4 letter to New York Attorney General Letitia James' office obtained by CNN, which requested the names and contact information of the victims, as well as investigative materials pertaining to their allegations and any incidents that may have taken place in Manhattan.
While Cuomo will no longer face a forcible touching charge in Albany and the Manhattan district attorney will not criminally charge him, this isn't the end of the former governor's legal battles.
Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes told CNN on Friday that his office's inquiry into allegations against Cuomo is "still under review."
Cuomo is also the subject of an inquiry by federal prosecutors related to allegations of sexual harassment.
This story has been updated with additional reporting Friday.
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