Cuomo Aide Who Says He Groped Her Files Criminal Complaint in Albany – The New York Times

A woman who accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of groping her breast in the Executive Mansion last year has filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County sheriff’s department, the sheriff’s office said on Friday.

The criminal complaint from the woman, an executive assistant whose name has not been publicized, increases the possibility that the governor could face criminal charges related to his behavior, though charges, let alone a conviction, are not guaranteed.

But any escalation of Mr. Cuomo’s legal problems could also serve to heighten his political woes as the State Assembly concludes its investigation into his conduct and prepares to draft articles of impeachment against him.

The Albany County district attorney, David Soares, is one of five prosecutors who have so far indicated that their offices are investigating the governor’s conduct after a report from the New York State attorney general’s office this week found that he had sexually harassed 11 women.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Soares declined to comment on the complaint, saying only that the investigation was “an ongoing matter that is under review.”

Legal experts have said that Mr. Cuomo’s conduct toward the assistant, as described in the attorney general’s report, could be charged as forcible touching, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.

The governor, a third-term Democrat, has repeatedly denied ever inappropriately touching the woman, or any of the others who have accused him of sexual misconduct. On Thursday, he said he would cooperate with the State Assembly’s request for information from him.

Daniel Richman, a former prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Columbia Law School, said in an interview that the filing of a criminal complaint did not oblige law enforcement authorities to forcefully or zealously pursue a case, and that prosecutors would have to consider other evidence, as well as the nature of the behavior in question.

“There are many highly inappropriate and indeed reprehensible actions that an employer can take — that very much amount to sexual harassment or inappropriate contact — that will not normally be pursued criminally by a D.A.’s office,” he said.

He added, “The D.A.’s office will have to take care here neither to cut the governor a break because of his position nor to single him out.”

The filing of the criminal complaint was first reported by The New York Post.

The attorney general’s investigators indicated in their report that the Albany Police Department had been alerted to the woman’s allegations, but not by the woman herself. Mr. Soares said in an interview with “NBC Nightly News” on Tuesday that no accusers had lodged formal complaints with his office. It is not yet clear when the woman decided to file the complaint with the sheriff’s office or what prompted her to do so.

Brian Premo, the woman’s lawyer, confirmed that his client had filed the complaint. A spokesman for the governor said on Friday that the office had referred the woman’s case to its office of employee relations months ago, and again pointed toward the governor’s denial of her claim.

The executive assistant told investigators that the governor had acted inappropriately toward her since 2019, kissing and hugging her in ways that she found uncomfortable. His advances toward her culminated last November in the episode at the mansion, in which he reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast, she told investigators.

The governor denied to investigators that he had touched her inappropriately.

The woman told the attorney general’s investigators in an interview that in November 2020, she had been summoned to the mansion by Stephanie Benton, the governor’s office director. She said that she had just finished an assignment and was preparing to leave when the governor pulled her in for a close hug.

When she stepped away, she said, the governor slammed the door shut, advanced toward her, slid his hand up her blouse and cupped her breast. The woman said she pulled away again and told Mr. Cuomo, “You’re crazy.”

“At that moment it was so quick and he didn’t say anything and I just remember thinking to myself, oh my God, and I remember stopping and him not saying anything and I remember I walked out and he didn’t say anything and I didn’t say anything,” she told investigators.

She did not immediately report what had happened, she said, in part because she was “terrified” that she would lose her job, which she described as the “opportunity of a lifetime for me.”

But a few months later, after the governor denied in a news conference in March that he had ever touched anyone inappropriately, she told several other executive assistants, who then reported the incident to Judith L. Mogul and Beth Garvey, lawyers for the governor. The following day, The Times Union of Albany published an article about the allegation.

In a “position paper” released on Tuesday and meant to rebut the report’s findings, Mr. Cuomo’s personal lawyer said that the report had “ignored the governor’s testimony and substantial corroborating evidence.”

The document cites “contemporaneous emails, schedules and logs” meant to show that the governor was busy at work, mostly on phone calls, on the day and around the time frame that the executive assistant said the incident took place.

“It would be a pure act of insanity for the governor — who is 63 years old and lives his life under a microscope — to grab an employee’s breast in the middle of the workday at his Mansion Office,” Rita Glavin, the lawyer, wrote. “This simply did not happen.”

Mr. Cuomo, who has spent most of his time in the Executive Mansion since the report’s release, has been discussing with his team of lawyers and advisers whether he should further dispute the findings of the report in a news conference.