Advisors and surrogates for former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested Friday that a sexual assault charge filed against him this week in Albany was timed to help boost the gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Letitia James.
On Thursday, reports noted that the disgraced former Democratic governor was expected to be arrested next week after a criminal complaint filed in Albany City Court alleged that he “did intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim…and onto her intimate body part” in the Executive Mansion in December 2020.
The reports noted further that the alleged victim is former aide Brittany Commisso, 33.
“Specifically, the victims [sic] left breast for the purposes of degrading and satisfying his sexual desire,” the complaint, which was filed by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, notes further.
Cuomo resigned from office in August following a series of sexual harassment complaints and a finding by James’ office that the offenses allegedly violated both state and federal laws. Her office declined to prosecute, however, determining instead that the alleged offenses were “civil” matters.
“When my office received the referral to investigate allegations that former Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, we proceeded without fear or favor,” James noted on Twitter Thursday. “The criminal charges against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report.”
But within a day of the charge being filed, James announced that she intends to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul, the former lieutenant governor, for the Democratic nomination ahead of next year’s election.
Rita Glavin, an attorney for Cuomo, said Friday her client is innocent of the charge while referring to the details contained in Apple’s complaint as “totally uncorroborated” before questioning the “timing” of the charge.
“The timing of this charge, on the eve of Tish James announcing her run for Governor, is highly suspect and should give all of us pause that the heavy hand of politics is behind this decision,” she said in a statement.
“We expect clear-headed people will make better decisions going forward, but should this case move forward we are prepared to vigorously defend the Governor and challenge every aspect of the specious, inconsistent and uncorroborated allegations made against him,” she noted further.
Earlier this year, James’ office determined that Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
“Our work is concluded and the document is now public,” she said during a press conference at the time. “And the matter is civil in nature and does not have any criminal consequences.”
“We were tasked with the responsibility of engaging in an investigation. And we have concluded our investigation. And our work is done,” she continued. “And so as it relates to next steps, that’s entirely up to the governor and or the assembly and the general public. But the work of the office of the Attorney General and these special deputies has concluded.”
This week, James praised the decision by Apple to file his complaint, saying in a statement “criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report.”
Cuomo’s long-serving spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, blasted the complaint while going on to question the sheriff’s decision to file his charge without first consulting state prosecutors or the accuser.
“In August Craig Apple publicly credited Tish James’ report as evidence to pronounce the Governor guilty of an allegation he had not yet investigated,” Azzopardi noted, according to Fox News.
“Now, as she prepares to announce her Gubernatorial run, Tish James returned the favor, using Sheriff Apple’s conveniently timed move to validate her sham report — here politics is validating politics, what’s missing is facts and the law,” Azzopardi added.
“In an unprecedented move, Craig Apple ‘erroneously’ filed misdemeanor charges against Former Governor Cuomo without notification or authorization of the District Attorney or the complainant,” Azzopardi continued.
“It seemed the only person who was notified, and had a statement ready to go, was Tish James. New Yorker’s aren’t stupid and none of this passes the laugh test. This isn’t the wild west: the abuse of power and misconduct demonstrated by this Cowboy Sheriff and AG James is transparent and it has to stop,” he noted further.
Apple, meantime, defended his decision to file the charges, telling reporters he is “very confident” the Albany County district attorney would prosecute.
Commiso’s lawyer, Brian Premo, said his client was taken off-guard by the charges but will cooperate.
“It was my client’s understanding that the district attorney’s office was going to basically lead a thorough and apolitical investigation into the matter and then discuss all the issues with my client, and then my client would give her informed consent,” Premo noted in an interview with local media.
“It was our understanding that the sheriff was in agreement with that process, so she was just surprised by how it came about and what had occurred,” he added.
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