New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could face felony charges if investigators substantiate a criminal complaint accusing the governor of groping an aide last year, the Albany County sheriff said Saturday.
Sheriff Craig Apple promised a “very comprehensive” investigation in conjunction with the Albany County District Attorney’s office, but said it would be premature to commit to a timeline or say whether Cuomo himself will be questioned.
“We have a lot of fact-finding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do,” Apple told reporters. “I’m not going to rush it because of who he is. And I’m not going to put it off because of who he is.”
The complaint, filed this week, is the first known case in which a woman has filed an official report with a law enforcement agency for alleged misconduct by the Democratic governor.
The assistant says Cuomo reached under her shirt and groped her when they were alone in a room in the Executive Mansion last year. The woman also told investigators from the attorney general’s office that Cuomo once rubbed her behind as they posed for a photo together.
Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, has said the allegation was fabricated.
“He is 63 years old. He has spent 40 years in public life and for him to be suddenly accused of assaulting an executive assistant he really doesn’t know is out of the question,” Glavin said. .
Apple declined to release the complaint on Saturday, but described the allegation as “sexual in nature”. He said his office has a “proven track record” of helping victims, adding that he has no fear of retaliation for continuing such a high-profile investigation.
“I’m the county sheriff. I’m not intimidated. I won’t be forced,’ he said. “That wouldn’t work out well for anyone.”
Cuomo has again been summoned to resign after an independent investigation overseen by the prosecutor’s office concluded that he sexually harassed 11 women and worked to exact revenge on one of his accusers.
The attorney general’s report details a series of times Cuomo allegedly acted inappropriately with the assistant described as Executive Assistant #1, culminating in the groping encounter at the mansion in November 2020.
According to the woman, Cuomo pulled her to him for a hug as she prepared to leave the governor’s office at the mansion. Told that “you’re going to get us in trouble,” Cuomo replied, “I don’t care,” and slammed the door. According to her story, he ran his hand through her blouse and grabbed her breast over her bra.
“I gotta tell you, it was — right now I was so shocked I could tell you I just remember looking down and seeing his hand, seeing the top of my bra,” she told the researchers.
She said she backed off from Cuomo and told him, “You’re crazy.”
District attorneys in Manhattan counties, the suburbs of Westchester and Nassau and the state capital of Albany have said they have asked for investigative materials from the attorney general’s investigation to see if any of the charges could lead to criminal charges.
Apple said it has also requested those materials and has spoken with Albany County District Attorney David Soares and his office. He said he hopes to meet Soares in the coming days and receive the materials in the coming week.
The sheriff said he will likely have the assistant come in at some point for a series of interviews, but also emphasized that he “didn’t want to victimize the victims again and have them tell their story over and over.”
“I think we’ve all read the Attorney General’s report,” he said. “Right now I feel very comfortable and can say that she is in fact a victim.”
Cuomo has steadfastly denied touching the woman’s breasts, saying, “I’d have to go crazy doing something like that.”
It was unclear Saturday why the county sheriff’s office was leading the investigation and not the Albany City Police Department. But Apple said the complaint was in the city of Albany and the city and state buildings are both located in Albany County.
“I’m the sheriff of this county and I have jurisdiction,” he said.
The sheriff said his office would decide whether to file criminal charges against Cuomo, but said he hopes to reach an agreement with the district attorney on that decision first.
The state assembly’s Judiciary Committee plans to meet Monday to discuss the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Cuomo. Nearly two-thirds of the legislature have already said they will support impeachment proceedings if he does not resign.