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Sheriff says Cuomo criminal complaint case is 'solid'

Karen DeWitt/New York State Public Radio

More details emerged Friday about the criminal complaint filed against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple explained some of the confusion surrounding the release of the document, which charges Cuomo with the misdemeanor crime of forcibly touching a female staffer at the executive mansion late last year.

Apple said his investigators spent four months conducting a “comprehensive and methodical investigation” sifting through thousands of documents, executing several search warrants and interviewing numerous witnesses. He says they filed the criminal complaint Thursday afternoon in Albany City Court.

“Mr. Cuomo is scheduled to appear Nov. 17 in Albany City Court,” Apple said. “At which point he’ll be processed.”

The document accuses Cuomo of meeting with staffer Brittany Commisso on Dec. 7, 2020, at the governor’s mansion, where Commisso has said the former governor asked for help fixing his phone. According to the complaint, Cuomo then “forcibly place(d) his hand under the blouse of the victim, and onto her intimate body parts” for the purposes of degrading the victim and “gratifying his sexual desires."

Apple said he did not expect the document to be processed so quickly -- within a matter of minutes -- and then leaked to the media. He said normally, it takes several days for the paperwork for misdemeanor charges to be completed. Apple said he had planned to meet with Albany County District Attorney David Soares and give Cuomo’s attorney Rita Glavin a courtesy call before going public with the complaint, and he said he regrets that. But Apple said the messy release of the charges does not affect the strength of the case.

“We kind of got sandbagged ourselves,” Apple said. “The way it went down has nothing to do with the case, the case is a very solid case.”

Apple’s news conference occurred as state Attorney General Tish James announced she will be a candidate for governor next year. James’ August report that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including Commisso, led to the former governor’s resignation on Aug. 24.

James, in a brief video release, never mentioned Cuomo.

“I’ve gone after the drug companies for fueling the opioid crisis, I fought for better conditions and transparency in nursing homes, ” James says in the video. “I’ve sued the Trump administration 76 times. But who’s counting?”

Glavin denies the charge against Cuomo, saying he “did not assault Ms. Commisso.” Glavin called the timing of the charges, one day before James' announcement, “highly suspect.” 

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi went further, saying in a statement, that the attorney general and sheriff are “playing New Yorkers for fools” and that James issued her report on the former governor’s alleged sexual misconduct because she was “afraid to confront him in an election.”

He called Apple “the fruit of the poisonous tree.”

James limited her comments to her video release, but Apple said accusations that he is involved in a political hit job are “ridiculous."

“I’ve been called worse,” Apple said. “I’d rather they throw it at me then re-victimize the victims over and over."

The sheriff said the criminal complaint issued against the former governor is the first step in a long process. He expects a summons to be sent to Cuomo next week, and he could not speculate on whether the case might go to trial or what the ultimate punishment might be should Cuomo be found guilty of the charges.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.