The sex crime complaint against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has officially been dismissed.
Albany City Court Judge Holly Trexler tossed the charge Friday at the request of Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who concluded Tuesday he couldn’t prove the crime at trial despite deeming the alleged victim “cooperative and credible.”
Cuomo had been facing one misdemeanor count of forcible touching, filed by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in October. He was accused of reaching under the shirt of his executive assistant, Brittany Commisso, and groping her at the Executive Mansion on December 7th, 2020 after being summoned there to help Cuomo with an issue with his phone. Even with the criminal charge dismissed, Cuomo still faces potential legal challenges ahead.
During her ruling, Trexler noted state law gives broad discretion to district attorneys to choose which cases to prosecute. As such, she dismissed the case against Cuomo and ordered it sealed.
“Superior courts in the state of New York have long and consistently held that the courts may not and should not interfere with the discretion of a district attorney,” Trexler said.
The former governor appeared for the court proceeding virtually and only briefly, when his attorney, Rita Glavin, quickly panned her camera to show he was next to her.
He did not have to enter a plea before the case was dismissed because he was facing a misdemeanor, not a felony.
Cuomo and his attorney have repeatedly denied groping Commisso, saying it defies credibility.
"Today, reason and the rule of law prevailed. Not politics, rhetoric or mob mentality," Glavin said shortly after the proceeding.
Commisso was one of 11 women whose claims of sexual harassment or misconduct by Cuomo were highlighted in an August report released by state Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which concluded the women – including nine current or former state employees – were harassed by Cuomo in violation of state and federal law.
The report helped force Cuomo’s August 24th resignation, elevating Kathy Hochul to the role of governor.
The now-dismissed complaint against Cuomo was at the center of a dispute between Soares and Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, whose office abruptly filed the charge without Soares’ knowledge.
In November, Soares warned the filing was “potentially defective” and asked Trexler to push Cuomo’s arraignment to Friday. On Tuesday, Soares released a statement saying he wouldn’t prosecute the complaint, saying the available evidence would have made it difficult to prove in court.
In court, Jennifer McCanney, one of Soares’ assistant district attorneys, said the prosecutor’s office had “reviewed all of the available evidence” and “concluded that we cannot successfully secure conviction in this case.”
On Friday, Soares spoke generally about his decision-making process, telling WAMC-FM that his office undertakes an “independent and dispassionate review” of all the facts before prosecuting a case.
“In doing so, as a prosecutor you have to ask yourself, ‘Can we establish every element of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt?’” he said. “And if you can, you proceed. And if you cannot, you do not.”
Commisso expressed disappointment with Soares' decision, saying it sends the wrong message to victims of sexual offenses.
With the criminal complaint now dismissed, Cuomo still faces the possibility of a civil suit. On Tuesday, Commisso’s attorney, Brian Premo, suggested she does intend to pursue that route.
“The only thing she has any power over is her resolution to continue to speak the truth and seek justice in an appropriate civil action, which she will do in due course,” Premo said.