The move to drop the case marked a reprieve for Cuomo,
who was expected to be arraigned in court Friday, even as the prosecutor
described the former aide, Brittany Commisso, as credible and said he was
“deeply troubled by allegations like the ones at issue here.”
“While many have an opinion regarding the allegations
against the former governor, the Albany County DA’s Office is the only one who
has a burden to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” David
Soares, the Albany County district attorney, said in a statement. “While we
found the complainant in this case cooperative and credible, after review of
all the available evidence we have concluded that we cannot meet our burden at
The Albany sheriff’s office had filed a criminal
complaint in October charging Cuomo with forcible touching, a misdemeanour sex
crime that carries a penalty of up to one year in jail, but it had remained
unclear whether Soares would pursue the case.
His decision to decline to prosecute Cuomo, a
development that was first reported by the Times Union of Albany on Monday,
made him the third district attorney in recent weeks to close a criminal
investigation into Cuomo’s treatment of women.
Prosecutors in Westchester and Nassau counties
recently announced that they would not pursue charges against Cuomo after their
offices investigated separate sexual misconduct allegations against him. Those
and other allegations were corroborated in a damning report by the state attorney
general’s office that led Cuomo to resign in August.
The Manhattan district attorney has also closed an
investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths toward the start of
the pandemic, a lawyer for Cuomo who was briefed by prosecutors said Monday.
Soares’ decision brings to a close an explosive case
that was defined not just by its high-profile nature, but a string of missteps
in the way it was handled, setting off tensions between the city’s sheriff and
district attorney and leading to accusations from Cuomo’s camp that the case
was politically motivated.
The complaint stemmed from allegations made by
Commisso, a former executive assistant to Cuomo who said he groped her breast
while they were alone in his private residence in December 2020.
“What he did to me was a crime,” Commisso told CBS
This Morning and the Albany Times Union in a joint interview last August. “It
was not welcomed, and it was certainly not consensual.”
The criminal complaint in Albany was among the most
serious threats against Cuomo, a once-powerful Democrat who rose to national
prominence for his leadership during the start of the coronavirus pandemic but
left office engulfed in scandal.
Cuomo, who served as governor for more than a decade,
repeatedly denied Commisso’s accusation, and his lawyers mounted a vigorous
defence seeking to undermine her account.
© 2021 The New York Times Company