There is an “overwhelming amount of evidence” in the misdemeanor sex crime case against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the local sheriff said a day after charges were filed in Albany City Court.
The complaint, filed by an Albany County Sheriff’s Department investigator, accused Cuomo of forcible touching.
The alleged crime took place at the governor’s mansion on Dec. 7, 2020, when Cuomo “intentionally and for no legitimate purpose” forcibly placed his hand under the blouse of an unnamed victim and onto an intimate body part.
“Specifically, the victim’s left breast for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires, all contrary to the provisions of the statute in such case made and provided,” the complaint said.
The filing caught the local district attorney by surprise, and Cuomo’s attorney and spokesperson charged that the complaint was about “politics,” not justice.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple defended his office’s actions in filing the charge Friday, telling reporters, “We have a solid case.”
Over four months, investigators combed through hundreds, if not thousands, of documents, executed several search warrants and interviewed “numerous witnesses,” Apple said.
“I think we have an overwhelming amount of evidence,” said Apple, who noted that he feels “very confident” that Albany County District Attorney David Soares will prosecute the charge.
Apple conceded he would have liked Thursday’s events to have unfolded differently and for Soares to have been contacted in advance of the filing, though he said that isn’t customary. He also said he would have preferred for the complaint to have been released after the arraignment, but called accusations of this being a political hit job “ridiculous.”
“We handled this like we handle every other investigation,” Apple said. “This charge fits the allegation and it fits the evidence.”
Cuomo resigned in August following a monthslong investigation by State Attorney General Letitia James that found he sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former state employees.
“Specifically, we find that the Governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” the report said.
Cuomo has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment. Following his resignation, he said the report was politicized and that there was a rush to judgment.
“Let me say now that when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system and that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society,” Cuomo said during his farewell address. “I understand that there are moments of intense political pressure and media frenzy that cause a rush to judgment, but that is not right. It’s not fair or sustainable. Facts still matter.”
Hours after the criminal complaint was filed, Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, said that the former governor has “never assaulted anyone” and charged that Sheriff Apple’s motives “are patently improper.”
“Sheriff Apple didn’t even tell the District Attorney what he was doing. But Apple’s behavior is no surprise given (1) his August 7 press conference where he essentially pronounced the Governor guilty before doing an investigation, and (2) his Office’s leaking of grand jury information,” Glavin said in a statement to ABC News. “This is not professional law enforcement; this is politics.”
Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi also said it “reeks of Albany politics and perhaps worse.”
“The truth about what happened with this cowboy sheriff will come out,” Azzopardi said in a statement.
The Albany County sheriff’s office started its investigation for a criminal complaint of forcible touching on Aug. 5, and investigators “have determined that there was enough probable cause to present evidence to the court,” Apple said in a statement Thursday.
Albany City Court has issued a criminal summons for Cuomo to appear in court on Nov. 17, said the sheriff, who expects Cuomo to get served early next week.
Attorney General James reacted to the filing, saying in a statement to ABC News that the “criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report.”
Soares said in a statement that he was “surprised” by the criminal complaint and couldn’t comment further.
The New York State Assembly suspended its impeachment investigation in the wake of Cuomo’s resignation announcement. The impeachment probe was investigating sexual harassment and misconduct claims, as well as allegations the governor inappropriately used state resources to write his memoir and concerns around COVID-19 data and testing.
Cuomo was replaced by then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. On Friday, she vowed not to repeat the “culture” of her predecessor’s administration.
“We are working very hard to erase this culture so all women, all people, feel free from discrimination, harassment or abuse in the New York state workplace. I take this personally,” Hochul said during an event.
She declined to directly address the charge, saying, “There are so many issues swirling around right now that is up for the individuals who have all the information. I’m just making sure I protect the women in our workforce and believe the women who came forward in the past.”
“No one will ever question what we are doing in our administration,” she added.
ABC News’ William Mansell and Mark Crudele contributed this report.