by Marina Villeneuve and Michael Hill | The Associated Press
ALBANY, NY — The only criminal charge filed on sexual assault charges that ousted former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was dismissed on Friday at the request of prosecutors in what was seen as the most serious legal threat to Democrats.
The move was expected after Albany County prosecutors said they could not prove the case and intended to drop it.
Cuomo, who denied the allegation that he groped an aide at the executive mansion in 2020, did not speak during Friday’s short hearing, the judge sitting in an Albany courtroom and introduced lawyers and defendants via videoconference.
Wearing a black mask, Cuomo was only visible for a few seconds when his lawyer, Rita Glavin, turned his camera to show him in the room.
“As the governor has said, it simply didn’t happen,” Glavin said in a video statement after the hearing. “Today, logic and the rule of law prevail. No politics, rhetoric or mob mentality,” she said.
During the hearing, which lasted only a few minutes and would have been even shorter if not for the audio disturbances, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer McCanney told judge prosecutors that she had reviewed the evidence “and concluded that we were successful in this case.” Can’t secure a sentence.”
Judge Holly Trexler noted the “absolute discretion” of district attorneys to decide whether to prosecute a case.
“A court should not and should not interfere with the discretion of the district attorney,” she said.
Cuomo could still face trial if his accusers choose to take him to court.
Some, including Comiso, have indicated they plan to do so. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azopardi said Friday that the former governor “won’t pay a dime to civilian extortion efforts.”
In October, two months after Cuomo resigned, the local sheriff filed a rape complaint.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares said this week that although the aide was credible, and some evidence supported his account, he believed he could not win a sentence.
Colleague, Brittany Comiso, said Cuomo dropped his hand on her blouse and grabbed her breast while they were alone in an office in the mansion.
Her testimony was most damning in a report released in August by Democratic State Attorney General Letitia James, which concluded that Cuomo had sexually assaulted 11 women. He said that he never touched anyone inappropriately.
Cuomo resigned the same month. He called the report inappropriate.
Soares has said he was surprised when a fellow Democrat, Sheriff Craig Apple, filed a complaint of forcible touching without consulting the prosecutor’s office. Soares called it “potentially flawed” and went on to delay Cuomo’s indictment, originally scheduled for November.
In a letter to Trexler on Tuesday, Soares said, “Statutory elements of New York law make it impossible to prove this case.” He said government inquiries into Cuomo’s conduct had created “technical and procedural barriers” regarding prosecutors’ obligations to disclose defense evidence.
Glavin on Friday called the complaint “a blatant political act,” labeled Apple a “rogue sheriff” and attacked the commisson, saying no jury would find him credible.
Apple has called previous attacks by Cuomo representatives baseless.
Some legal experts said Soares’ decision illustrated the difficulties of prosecuting sex offense charges. But others said they should have moved on if they had faith in the accuser.
Comiso did not respond to a request for comment, which his lawyer did on Friday, but earlier this week he reprimanded Soares for dropping the case.
Comiso said in one, “My disheartening experience of being re-victimized with the failure to prosecute a serial sexual abuser, no matter how much the crime, is still sad that victims are afraid to come forward, especially those in power.” against the people.” Statement Tuesday to the Times Union of Albany.
The Associated Press does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, as Comiso has done in interviews.
Soares said in a radio interview Friday that the attorney general’s investigation did not have the same legal requirements as the criminal case, and added that prosecutors cannot be influenced by public sentiment or “passion.”
“It is not for me to engage in any kind of debate with people who are not armed with as much information or obligations as I have. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but only one person with the burden of proof is, and that is me,” he told WAMC/Northeast Public Radio Network.
Two prosecutors in the suburbs of New York City announced separately last month that Cuomo would not face charges involving other women who said they were subjected to unwanted kissing or touching.
Meanwhile, James is still looking into whether Cuomo made inappropriate use of state workers and resources for his coronavirus pandemic memoir. He is also feuding with state ethics commissioners who gave him more than $5 million in book proceeds.
The US Justice Department launched a civil investigation into allegations of sexual assault related to Cuomo in August. The status of that investigation is unclear.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.