A New York sheriff said Friday that “we have an overwhelming amount of evidence” against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a day after a criminal complaint accused him of a sex crime against an aide.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple also revealed that he, along with everyone else involved in the case, was caught by surprise by the abrupt docketing of the complaint and its leak to media shortly after his office filed it in Albany City Court on Thursday.
Apple told reporters that he had expected the complaint to be reviewed by court officials to determine the next steps in the case, not formally filed.
The complaint accuses Cuomo, 63, of forcible touching of a female executive assistant in December in the governor’s mansion. The charge is a misdemeanor.
Cuomo is due to appear in court Nov. 17 in the case. Apple said the disgraced Democrat would be arrested at some point.
“We kind of got sandbagged ourselves,” Apple told reporters, saying he planned for the complaint to be publicly filed much later than Thursday after he had a chance to inform the county district attorney and Cuomo’s lawyer. The accuser in the case likewise was not notified that paperwork was filed in court right before the complaint was issued.
“Everything moved too fast,” Apple said. “We were expecting the documents to be reviewed. We weren’t expecting a five-minute turnaround.”
But Apple repeatedly said that the unexpected release of the complaint by the court would not affect the strength of the case against Cuomo.
“It’s a solid case,” he said.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares, whose office is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, in a statement Thursday said, “Like the rest of the public, we were surprised to learn today that a criminal complaint was filed in Albany City Court by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office against Andrew Cuomo.”
Apple on Friday brushed aside suggestions by Cuomo’s camp that he was politically motivated to file a criminal charge against Cuomo, saying his office had treated the investigation like any other probe involving a misdemeanor.
Cuomo’s team has argued that the investigation that led to his resignation in August was politically tainted by state Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who delegated the task of conducting the probe to lawyers in private practice.
James on Friday announced she will run for governor, seeking to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul, who had been Cuomo’s lieutenant governor before he resigned.
The probe found that Cuomo had sexually harassed nearly a dozen women, including current and former staffers, among them the executive assistant who accused him of groping her breast during an encounter in the governor’s mansion last year.
On Thursday, James issued a statement after the criminal complaint was released, saying, “The criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report.”
Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, in a written statement Friday said, “The Governor did not assault [the accuser] November 16, November 25, some day in November when she was tasked with taking a photograph, December 7, or any other date.”
“What Sheriff Apple did not say today is that the allegation is totally uncorroborated, and has been evolving since March,” Glavin said. “What Sheriff Apple did say about doing a ‘separate’ investigation from the DA, with ‘our victim,’ speaks volumes about his professed objectivity.”
“The timing of this charge, on the eve of Tish James announcing her run for Governor, is highly suspect and should give all of us pause that the heavy hand of politics is behind this decision,” Glavin said.
“We expect clear-headed people will make better decisions going forward, but should this case move forward we are prepared to vigorously defend the Governor and challenge every aspect of the specious, inconsistent and uncorroborated allegations made against him.”
The criminal complaint says that Cuomo intentionally “and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly [placed] his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim …. and onto her intimate body part. Specifically, the victims left breast for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires.”
Forcible touching is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, Cuomo could be sentenced to up to a year in prison or up to three years of probation.