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Albany County Sheriff says Cuomo criminal complaint case is 'solid'

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple
Karen DeWitt
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple

More details emerged Friday about the criminal complaint filed against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Albany County Sherriff 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.

Sherriff 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 said they filed the criminal complaint in Albany City Court Thursday afternoon.

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

A criminal misdemeanor complaint against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Office of Court Administration

The document accuses Cuomo of meeting with staffer Brittany Commisso on December 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 the Albany County DA, 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,” said Apple. “The way it went down has nothing to do with the case, the case is a very solid case.”

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

Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, denies the charge saying the former governor “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 trial or what the ultimate punishment might be, should the former governor be found guilty of the charges.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.