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Cuomo accused of forcible touching in criminal complaint

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A criminal complaint filed by a police investigator with a court in Albany has accused former New York Gov.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A criminal complaint filed by a police investigator with a court in Albany has accused former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of committing a misdemeanor sex crime, though there was confusion Thursday over whether the document was submitted in error.

The one-page complaint, filed by an investigator with the Albany County Sheriff's Office, accused Cuomo of putting his hand under a woman's shirt on Dec. 7, 2020. The document didn't name the woman but Cuomo had been publicly accused of groping an aide, Brittany Commisso, at the executive mansion in Albany last year around that date.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple did not return messages. The office of the county's district attorney, David Soares, which would handle any prosecution and was involved in the investigation, issued a statement saying it had been caught off guard by the filing.

"Like the rest of the public, we were surprised to learn today that a criminal complaint was filed in Albany City Court by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office against Andrew Cuomo,” it said. “The Office of Court Administration has since made that filing public. Our office will not be commenting further on this case.”

The Times Union, of Albany, quoted unnamed officials as saying the complaint had been issued “prematurely" and that a final decision hadn't been made about whether Cuomo would face charges.

Cuomo's lawyer and spokesperson didn't immediately return messages seeking comment. A lawyer for Commisso also didn't return a message.

Commisso, who was an executive assistant for Cuomo, says he reached under her shirt and fondled her when they were alone in a room at the governor's mansion in Albany.

She said Cuomo pulled her in for a hug as she prepared to leave his office at the mansion. When she told him, “you’re going to get us in trouble,” Cuomo replied, “I don’t care,” and slammed the door shut, according to her account. Commisso said Cuomo slid his hand up her blouse and grabbed her breast.

Cuomo has adamantly denied groping her, saying once, “I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing.”

The crime of forcible touching is punishable in New York by up to year in jail and up to three years probation, with discretion for the court to impose lesser penalties including no jail time.

The Associated Press doesn’t usually identify alleged sexual assault victims unless they decide to tell their stories publicly, as Commisso has done in newspaper and television interviews.

Commisso filed a complaint with the county sheriff in August in the same week a report from state Attorney General Letitia James concluded the Democratic governor sexually harassed 11 women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers. Other accusations outlined in the report range from planting unwanted kisses to asking unwelcome personal questions about sex and dating.

Cuomo announced his resignation a week after the release of the blistering report, marking a dramatic downfall for the third-term governor who had been seen as a beacon of sturdy competence during his daily COVID-19 briefings in 2020. He attacked the attorney general's report as inaccurate and biased.

James, whose office is not involved in the criminal investigation of Cuomo, issued a statement saying her civil probe had been conducted “without fear or favor.”

“The criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report,” she said.

James is said to be close to announcing that she will run for governor, multiple people with knowledge of her plans have told The Associated Press.

Commisso was referred to as “Executive Assistant #1” in the report but publicly revealed her identity after its release. She is the only woman mentioned in the attorney general's report known to have filed a criminal complaint.

Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin has said that Commisso's “story changed over time” and claimed records showed the two were unlikely to have spent time alone during the period in question.

The complaint filed by the sheriff's department investigator said evidence in the case included police BlackBerry messages, cell phone records, building security records and a text message from Cuomo's mobile phone. The complaint was signed by the officer Monday and stamped by the court as received Thursday.

District attorneys in Oswego, Manhattan, suburban Westchester and Nassau counties also had said they asked for investigative materials from the attorney general’s inquiry to see if any of the allegations could result in criminal charges.

Also, the Assembly Judiciary Committee is completing a wide-ranging impeachment investigation of Cuomo that began before he resigned. The also were looking at the administration’s handling of COVID-19 data and efforts to rush COVID-19 testing for Cuomo’s inner circle in spring 2020.

Michael Hill, The Associated Press