ALBANY – An Albany criminal court agreed Friday to drop a misdemeanor complaint of forcible touching against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The complaint, arising from allegations that Cuomo groped a former staffer, has been the only charge brought against the former governor after a year in which he faced a long list of accusations on a variety of subjects and resigned last August over the sexual harassment complaints.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares announced earlier this week that there was not enough evidence to let him pursue the accusations beyond a reasonable doubt. In a Friday proceeding, Judge Holly Trexler did not object to his decision to drop it.
“The district attorney’s office has unfettered discretion … to prosecute a particular case,” Trexler said. “The courts may not and cannot interfere with the discretion of a district attorney.”
The mostly virtual proceeding itself was fairly anticlimactic.
Cuomo appeared on camera for only a second, when attorney Rita Glavin panned the camera to show that he was in the room with her. He did not speak.
Disability rights activist Michael Carey attempted to deliver a letter to Trexler asking her to force Soares to pursue the case; court officers did not let him deliver the letter.
The case originated from allegations brought by former gubernatorial staffer Brittany Commisso, who accused Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion in 2020.
Soares has said that while he found her credible and cooperative, there simply isn’t enough proof for him to move forward.
“Law enforcement agencies and police officers can act lawfully once they find probable cause to believe that an event has occurred,” he said in a regular appearance on public radio station WAMC on Friday morning.
“That’s a very, very, very low burden. It’s a much different burden than the burden that prosecutors are held to, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Cuomo has denied he inappropriately touched Commiso, and Glavin praised the decision to drop the case.
“As the governor has said, this simply did not happen,” Glavin told reporters on a Zoom call.
Commisso’s allegations can still lead to a civil action.
And there are several other potential legal actions which Cuomo still needs to contend with, including attempts by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to potentially recoup the $5.1 million he was paid to write his memoir on the pandemic.