Former Governor Andrew Cuomo is slated to appear in Albany City Court on a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching on November 17th, according to the Albany County Sheriff's office. The charge against him stems from allegations made by his executive assistant Brittany Commisso, who filed a formal complaint that Cuomo had groped her breast in the executive mansion in December of 2020.
Sheriff Craig Apple described what the embattled former governor might expect when he appears in court next month.
“The individual will come up here. He will be arraigned and at that point he will be fingerprinted and photographed and seemingly released,” Apple said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Forcible touching carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison, but is typically resolved without any jail time, according to New York state data. While it is a sex crime, a perpetrator typically only has to register as a sex offender after multiple convictions or if the victim is younger than 18 years old.
A pending criminal charge is the latest blow for Cuomo, who reached the heights of popularity last year for his handling of the pandemic, only to see it all unravel, when it was revealed he was undercounting the deaths of nursing home residents from COVID-19, which led to allegations about bullying and a toxic workplace culture in his office, and then further allegations of sexual harassment by nearly a dozen women.
Apple’s press conference came following a chaotic few hours after news broke Thursday evening that a criminal complaint had been filed. New York Focus first reported the charge, but confusion followed when it became apparent that news of the charge blindsided many, including the Albany County District Attorney. The Times Union soon reported the paperwork had been filed prematurely.
At the Friday press conference, Sheriff Apple insisted that filing a misdemeanor court summons before alerting the district attorney was par for the course. However, he admitted that the summons would typically take a few days to process and he had planned to meet with the district attorney in the interim to discuss the charge.
Instead it was leaked to the press almost immediately.
“Sometimes in police work with investigations things don’t go how you want them you got to be ready to pivot and that’s exactly what we did,” Apple said.
Brain Premo, an attorney for Commisso, reportedly said that although he was surprised by the unexpected filing, his client will “remain a resolute cooperating victim in pursuit of blind justice." Premo couldn’t be reached for further comment.
Legal experts told the New York Times the lack of coordination between the sheriff and the district attorney was extremely odd for such a high profile case. Soares’s office, which will be tasked with prosecuting the case, declined to comment further.
Cuomo seized on the disarray Thursday evening as further evidence that allegations against him were fabricated political attacks. Cuomo, his personal attorney and his surrogates have spent months attempting to discredit the findings of Attorney General Letitia James’ report on sexual harassment and the women who accused him of it. That campaign has continued even after he resigned in early August.
"Law and politics are totally separate and this is a toxic intersection of the two,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New Yorker's aren't stupid and none of this passes the laugh test. This isn't the wild west: the abuse of power and misconduct demonstrated by this Cowboy Sheriff and AG James is transparent and it has to stop."
Sheriff Apple said he was unfazed by Cuomo’s remarks about him.
“This is my job,” he said. “I’d rather they throw it at me than they throw it at the victims over and over and over. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been called much worse.”