NEW YORK (Reuters) -A former employee who accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of groping her in the Executive Mansion in Albany has filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County sheriff’s department, the department said on Friday.
The woman, whose name has not been made public, was an executive assistant who told state investigators that Cuomo groped her breast on one occasion. It is the gravest of the sexual harassment allegations faced by Cuomo, whose once ascendant political career as part of one of the country’s most powerful Democratic Party families is on the brink of collapse.
The former aide was one of at least 11 women who state investigators this week said were sexually harassed by Cuomo, a Democrat. The governor is resisting widespread calls to resign, including from U.S. President Joe Biden, and faces impeachment by state lawmakers.
At a news briefing on Friday, lawyers defending Cuomo and his office argued that the investigation was biased from the start.
“There has been no open-minded fact-finding in this case,” said Rita Glavin, a lawyer representing Cuomo. “The investigation was conducted to support a predetermined narrative.”
The executive assistant told investigators that Cuomo called her to the mansion in November 2020, led her into a room, closed the door, slid his hand under her blouse and cupped her breast over her bra, according to the investigators’ report, released on Tuesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Judith Olin, a law professor at the University of Buffalo and a former New York state prosecutor who specialized in sexual assault cases, said the assistant’s allegations could support a charge of forcible touching, a misdemeanor, or potentially even a felony charge of sexual abuse. But she also said any prosecution could face an uphill climb given the lack of physical evidence and witnesses.
James’ report also concluded that Cuomo and his staff retaliated against at least one woman who complained about him by leaking her confidential employment records to the press. James said the governor had broken both federal and state laws forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace but that the investigation she oversaw was a civil one and that she would not be prosecuting.
The criminal complaint was first reported by the New York Post. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office, who declined to give his name, confirmed that the woman filed a complaint.
Cuomo, who has been holed up with advisers at the governor’s mansion since the report’s release, has conceded that he is affectionate with people he meets, but denies wrongdoing. His staff contacted Albany police in March when the woman’s allegations emerged.
“As we said previously, we proactively made a referral nearly four months ago in accordance with state policies,” Richard Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesperson, said in a statement.
Glavin, Cuomo’s lawyer, did not address the criminal complaint itself but said the executive assistant’s accusation was false. Records show the woman was at the mansion on Nov. 16, 2020, but Glavin pointed to emails the woman sent while she was there that gave no indication anything untoward had occurred.
“The documentary evidence does not support what she said,” Glavin said.
Cuomo’s lawyers also criticized James for not releasing the transcripts of witness statements to investigators, which would allow them to examine the evidence directly.
In response, Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for James, said, “There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”
The Albany County district attorney’s office is one of several prosecutors around the state that have requested records collated by the attorney general’s investigators, but would not confirm on Friday that a formal complaint had been filed.
“This is an ongoing matter that is under review,” Cecelia Walsh, a spokesperson for the district attorney, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Additional reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis)