By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not face prosecution on a forcible touching charge, Albany County District Attorney David Soares announced Tuesday.
It’s the fourth time in the last couple of weeks prosecutors have opted against pursuing a criminal case against the former three-term leader of New York. But what made Albany’s case different was the sheriff’s department filed a misdemeanor charge against Gov. Cuomo in October — a move that surprised Mr. Soares.
Gov. Cuomo was to go to court Friday for a hearing on the charge. That hearing had been rescheduled from early November after Mr. Soares told the judge he had procedural concerns about the filing.
The charge, which carried a prison term of up to 364 days if Gov. Cuomo had been found guilty, stemmed from a complaint filed by a former executive assistant in the Cuomo administration. Brittany Commisso said the then-governor put his hand under her blouse in the Executive Mansion.
Ms. Commisso was one of 11 women whose claims were documented in an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Cuomo. New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report Aug. 3 that said investigators found the women’s claims credible.
Gov. Cuomo and his attorneys strongly denied the allegations. However, he would announce his resignation from office a week later after saying he did not want to be a distraction.
But even after he left office, he and his attorneys have continued to refute the report, saying Ms. James promoted the allegations for her own political gain. With the Commisso claim, Gov. Cuomo pointed out the independent investigation said the groping incident took place on Nov. 16, 2020, while the ensuing sheriff’s investigation said it occurred on Dec. 7, 2020.
In his statement Tuesday, Mr. Soares did not identify Ms. Commisso by name. He added he found her to be “cooperative and credible.” Still, he said his office recommended dropping the charges after determining it would not be able to prove it in a trial.
“While many have an opinion regarding the allegations against the former governor, the Albany County DA’s Office is the only one who has a burden to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Soares said.
Last month, district attorneys in Nassau and Westchester counties announced they would not pursue criminal cases against Gov. Cuomo after reviewing incidents mentioned in the independent investigation’s report.
In a separate matter, a Cuomo attorney announced Monday the Manhattan district attorney’s office would not press charges against Gov. Cuomo for his nursing home policies during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like his colleagues, Mr. Soares said Tuesday that not pursuing charges does not equate to condoning the alleged incidents. He also noted Ms. Commisso and others who have accused the former governor may still file a civil case against him.
“I, like most New Yorkers, remain deeply troubled by allegations like the ones at issue here,” he said. “Such conduct has no place in government or in any workplace. Although avenues for criminal prosecution in these cases are sometimes limited, I encourage victims of workplace harassment and abuse to continue to come forward and bring these issues to light so that these important discussions can continue.”
Ms. Commisso, though, criticized Mr., Soares’ decision in an interview with the New York Post Tuesday.
“I think it’s deterring women from coming forward,” she said.