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Former New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo accused in misdemeanor complaint of forcible touching, court says

During his farewell address on Aug. 23, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) derided the investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. (Video: The Washington Post)
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A misdemeanor complaint was filed Thursday against former New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo, accusing him of forcibly touching a woman in the governor’s executive mansion last year.

The complaint was filed in Albany City Court, which later issued a summons for Cuomo to appear in court Nov. 17.

According to the complaint, 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 intimate body part.”

“Specifically,” the complaint continues, Cuomo touched the victim’s “left breast for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires, all contrary to the provisions of the statute in such case made and provided.”

Cuomo (D) 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.

In response to the complaint, Rita Glavin, an attorney for Cuomo, said in a statement that the former governor “never assaulted anyone, and Sheriff [Craig D.] Apple’s motives here are patently improper … This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics.”

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

According to the Albany Times Union, the summons was issued without Commisso’s consent.

“It was my client’s understanding that the district attorney’s office was in agreement with the sheriff’s department that it was going to conduct a thorough, impartial and apolitical evaluation of the case, and only after completion of the investigation, speak to my client to allow her to make an informed decision as to whether she would proceed as a victim in the case,” Commisso’s attorney, Brian D. Premo, told the paper.

“Like the district attorney’s office, she was informed about this recent filing through media,” he added.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, which was formed by former New York state legislative staffers, called for an investigation into the handling of Commisso’s complaint by the sheriff’s office, noting that it is “imperative that accountability measures are taken in close consultation [with] those who were harmed.”

“We expect the Albany County Sheriff to conduct a thorough review of how this case was mishandled, address how the process will be more trauma-informed moving forward, and institute best practices to ensure no other survivor has the same experience,” the group said on Twitter Friday morning.

The 165-page report released by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James in August found that Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, creating a hostile work environment for women in violation of state and federal law.

Investigators laid out a devastating portrait of Cuomo’s behavior and extensive examples of unwanted touching. Witnesses also described an environment in the governor’s office that was abusive and vindictive, with one of the women who came forward targeted for retaliation through the release of her personnel file, investigators said.

Cuomo has denied the allegations. “That never happened,” he said in August about the claim that he groped an executive assistant’s breast. He said other complainants sought to “unfairly characterize and weaponize everyday interactions,” noting his tendency to greet women and men warmly.

James announced her gubernatorial bid Friday. In a statement Thursday, 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.

Mariann Wang, an attorney for two other women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, said her clients “are enormously grateful for the courage of the women who have come forward to speak the truth about Cuomo’s misconduct.”

“Cuomo is being held to account as he should be, including by being forced to answer a criminal charge,” said Wang, who represents Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis. “We hope that all men who abuse their power by abusing women will see this and understand that there will be real consequences to their profoundly damaging behavior.”

A number of district attorneys have sought information from James’s office related to Cuomo’s conduct. A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Thursday that there are no updates on the status of that office’s investigation into Cuomo.

The claims 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.

Separately, Cuomo remains under investigation by state authorities on a number of other issues, including his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, the preferred access that Cuomo family members were given for coronavirus testing, and work that state employees did on a memoir about his leadership during the pandemic that secured him a $5 million advance.

In a joint interview with CBS’s “This Morning” and the Albany Times Union in August, Commisso identified herself as the person described only as “Executive Assistant #1” in James’s report.

Commisso told investigators from the attorney general’s office that she planned to take Cuomo’s actions “to her grave” but grew upset after hearing him deny inappropriately touching women.

When asked why she had filed the criminal complaint against Cuomo, Commisso told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan that “it was the right thing to do.”

“The governor needs to be held accountable,” Commisso said.

Shayna Jacobs, Michael Scherer and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.

Shayna Jacobs, Michael Scherer and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.