By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo started 2022 much like he ended 2021, with an apparent legal victory.
A lawyer for the disgraced ex-leader of the state said Monday that the Manhattan district attorney’s office ended its investigation into the Cuomo administration’s nursing home policies during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis without pressing any charges.
“I was told that after a thorough investigation – as we have said all along – there was no evidence to suggest any laws were broken,” Elkan Abramowitz, former outside counsel for the executive chamber, said in a statement posted by Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi on Twitter.
The news from Manhattan comes after prosecutors in Nassau and Westchester counties said in late December they would not seek charges against the former governor related to sexual harassment allegations made against him.
In late March 2020, as COVID-19 cases were increasing in New York, state officials initiated a new policy requiring nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive into their facilities.
The rationale was to free up beds at hospitals suddenly taxed by an influx of patients needing treatment. Shortly after the policy started, though, caseloads and deaths at the long-term care facilities skyrocketed.
The administration eventually issued a report that said the policy was not responsible for increased deaths at the facilities. Instead, the administration said community spread brought it in as workers and visitors introduced the virus to nursing homes before additional steps could be taken to control it.
The policy was eventually rescinded in early May.
The administration would also reveal daily death totals regarding people who died at hospitals and nursing homes. In January 2021, however, state Attorney General Letitia James said an investigation by her office determined that while Mr. Cuomo and state leaders did not underreport the total number of deaths, the number of deaths attributable to nursing homes was undercounted by up to 50%.
All the while, Mr. Cuomo’s national profile rose as his daily COVID-19 briefings made him a national political figure. He eventually received a $5 million book deal regarding his management of the crisis during the early days of the pandemic.
State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were also critical of Mr. Cuomo and the nursing home policy, especially regarding the lack of information the administration revealed about it.
Mr. Cuomo resigned in August, not due to the nursing home investigation, but after an independent investigation into several sexual harassment accusations against him. Those sexual harassment allegations and the nursing home policies were also part of an impeachment probe led by members of the state Assembly.
The state’s public ethics agency also pulled its approval of Cuomo’s $5 million book deal. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics also has taken steps to force the former governor to give back the money after the impeachment investigation determined administration officials worked on the book in violation of the conditions it gave in its approval of the book deal.
And while Mr. Cuomo may not face prosecution in New York County, that does not mean he will necessarily escape punishment.
Prosecutors in the New York City borough were just one of several agencies investigating Cuomo regarding nursing homes. An investigation by Ms. James’ office still continues as well as ones by the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Janice Dean, a Fox News meteorologist who became one of Mr. Cuomo’s most outspoken critics after her in-laws died in nursing homes, noted those ongoing inquiries in a statement on Twitter after Monday’s news broke.
“This sounds like a little favor from an outgoing Manhattan DA, which we’ll address with the new DA,” Ms. Dean tweeted.
Cyrus Vance served as the Manhattan district attorney until the end of December. Alvin Bragg won election in November and took over officially on New Year’s Day.
A message to Mr. Bragg’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned.