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Judge postpones Cuomo arraignment until January as district attorney criticizes sheriff’s handling of case as ‘potentially defective’

In this April 5 photo, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) speaks at a community center in Queens.
In this April 5 photo, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) speaks at a community center in Queens. (Brendan Mcdermid/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Albany judge has postponed until early next year the arraignment of former New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) in a sex-crimes case, after the district attorney accused the sheriff’s office of “unilaterally and inexplicably” filing a complaint without the consent of the alleged victim.

Friday’s decision by Albany City Court Judge Holly Trexler is a curveball in the case against Cuomo, who was accused in a misdemeanor complaint last week of forcibly touching a woman in the governor’s executive mansion last year.

Cuomo has denied the allegations. He resigned in August in the face of a likely impeachment by the New York Assembly after a state investigation found that he sexually harassed 11 women and oversaw an unlawful attempt to exact retribution against one of his accusers.

News of the postponement was first reported by the New York Times. A court employee confirmed the decision to The Washington Post.

Trexler’s decision comes after Albany Country District Attorney David Soares said in a letter Thursday that the complaint filed against Cuomo by Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple’s office was “potentially defective.”

According to the complaint Apple’s office filed last week, the alleged incident took place in December 2020. It states that Cuomo “did intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim” and onto her left breast “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires.”

The victim is not named in the complaint. But Brittany Commisso, a former executive assistant to Cuomo, has publicly accused him of similar actions. An attorney for Commisso did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

According to a report by the Albany Times Union last week, the summons was issued without Commisso’s consent. In a radio interview and during a news conference last week, Apple was asked whether he had received the victim’s consent before filing the complaint. He repeatedly declined to say, telling reporters only that his office had been in regular contact with the victim.

The sheriff’s filing of the complaint also blindsided Soares, whose office is independently investigating Cuomo’s conduct. Complicating matters is Apple’s claim that he, too, was caught off guard by the speed with which court officials issued the complaint against Cuomo after his office filed the paperwork last week. Apple said he expected it would take several days for the news to become public and that he was planning to inform Soares at a previously scheduled meeting.

In his letter to Trexler on Thursday, Soares said that Apple’s office “failed to include a sworn statement by the victim such that the People could proceed with a prosecution on these papers.”

“What was included with the complaint was a portion of a transcript of the victim’s statement given in a separate proceeding, but that portion excluded an oath, and, even more troubling, excluded other portions of her testimony where she described the very same acts described in the complaint,” Soares said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

He did not detail the testimony, describing it only as “exculpatory,” and said the relevant portion of the transcript had been provided to Cuomo’s attorneys.

Soares also cited the need to review “hundreds of hours of videotaped testimony” that were gathered by state Attorney General Letitia James’s office over the course of its investigation. Those videos, he said, must also be provided to Cuomo.

Soares asked Trexler to postpone Cuomo’s arraignment, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 17, “in order to reduce the risk of a procedural dismissal” of the case.

Cuomo’s attorneys also sent Trexler a letter supporting Soares’s request, “in order to enable the District Attorney to continue his investigation.”

A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment Friday afternoon. The Albany County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cecilia Walsh, a spokeswoman for Soares, confirmed the postponement and declined to comment further.

The independent report released by James’s office in August detailed how Cuomo allegedly harassed women inside and outside his office with unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. The 165-page report — based on interviews with 179 individuals, including Cuomo and his top aides — concluded that there was evidence to substantiate claims against him by 11 women.

Yet in the past week, the handling of the misdemeanor case against Cuomo has been marked by accusations of politics. Apple told reporters last week that a Cuomo aide accused him of rushing the complaint in order to boost his bid for another term as sheriff, a claim Apple denied.

James, meanwhile, launched her gubernatorial bid one day after the misdemeanor complaint was filed. In a statement last Friday, she said that the complaint against Cuomo validates the findings of her office’s report.

“From the moment my office received the referral to investigate allegations that former Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, we proceeded without fear or favor,” James said.

The claims against Cuomo surfaced publicly earlier this year when Lindsey Boylan, a former aide, wrote in an online post that Cuomo had sexually harassed her for years, saying he touched her lower back and arms and once kissed her. His aides later released details from her personnel file, an action the investigation concluded was “unlawful retaliation.”

Days after Boylan’s post, then-former aide Charlotte Bennett alleged in an interview with the New York Times that Cuomo made suggestive comments she interpreted as sexual advances.