What to Know
- The Albany County sheriff's office confirmed a Gov. Andrew Cuomo staffer filed a formal misconduct complaint of a "sexual nature" against the governor with investigators earlier this week
- Sheriff Craig Apple said he has "no timeline whatsoever" as far as determining whether any criminal charges should be filed; a lengthier interview with the woman who filed the report is up next
- Cuomo, a Democrat, has staunchly denied any and all allegations stemming from the attorney general's probe and has refused the mounting chorus of calls for his resignation
The Gov. Andrew Cuomo staffer who filed a criminal misconduct complaint of a "sexual nature" against the Democrat met with investigators at the Albany County sheriff's office for about an hour this week to file the formal report but is expected to meet with them soon for a lengthier interview, officials said Saturday.
After that, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said his office would decide whether there was sufficient evidence to move forward with any potential charges against the governor. It wasn't immediately clear when that lengthier interview would happen, nor has the sheriff's office interviewed any other people tied to the case.
The sheriff, who spoke to the media for less than 20 minutes Saturday, said his office had reached out to the state attorney general's office as well as Cuomo's private counsel requesting investigative material to assist the investigation.
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"I have no timeline whatsoever," Apple said when asked how long the process might take. "I can tell you I had a female come forward which was the hardest thing she has ever done and made a criminal complaint against the governor and we have a proven record of helping people and we will do everything in our power to help her."
He said he could not provide more extensive details into the complaint but vowed a comprehensive investigation would be conducted.
Should the case warrant a criminal charge, the sheriff, who has held his position since 2011 and has been with the office for well more than three decades, said it would probably involve a "misdemeanor, possibly a couple." If it comes down to that, Apple said his office would "absolutely" execute an arrest.
"We are in the infant stages of the investigation," Apple said as he acknowledged the "high-profile" nature of the case. "We have lots of fact-finding to do and a lot of interviews and I won’t rush it because of who he is and I won’t delay it because of who he is. It would be totally premature for me to comment on any of that."
Apple said he hopes to sit down with the Albany district attorney to devise a game plan, noting, "if you don't have the backing of your DA it's moot to move forward."
"The last thing we want to do is continue to re-victimize these victims. I commend them on their bravery for coming forward," Apple added.
Shortly after Apple's briefing, the state attorney general's office released a statement saying, "We will cooperate fully with the Albany sheriff and turn over all evidence related to this complainant. Similarly, we will cooperate with all law enforcement agencies, as appropriate."
It was not clear Saturday why the county sheriff’s office was leading the investigation and not Albany city police. But Apple said the complaint occurred in the city of Albany, and that the city and state Capitol buildings are both in Albany County.
“I’m the sheriff of this county and I have jurisdiction,” he said.
At least five county district attorneys have now opened investigations. The Albany County district attorney's office has said it is "aware" of media reports around the woman's criminal complaint but would not disclose additional information.
Rita Glavin, Cuomo's lawyer, said on CNN Saturday evening that she would like to see the criminal complaint and said of the sheriff: “He hasn't done any investigation and he's drawn a conclusion.”
When questioned about the state trooper's testimony in the attorney general's report, Glavin said the governor "wants to personally address this very soon."
Earlier Saturday, more than 50 Democratic County chairs signed a joint statement calling for Cuomo to resign in the wake of the report. Their names add to an ever-expanding list that also includes President Joe Biden.
"We, the undersigned Democratic County chairs, call upon Governor Cuomo to immediately resign. We firmly stand with our state chair, Jay Jacobs, in his call for the Governor’s resignation," their statement said. "We support President Biden and all our elected officials in their call for Governor Cuomo to resign. We have individually called for his resignation, and now we do so with one voice."
"We thank him for his years of service to the great state of New York, which we all know he holds dear, but demand that he immediately step down," the joint statement continued. "It's time to move on."
The developments come a day after News 4 reported the criminal filing from a staffer known only as "Executive Assistant #1" in the attorney general's report. See everything we know about her allegations from the independent review here.
The complaint is the first known instance where a woman has made an official report with a law enforcement agency over alleged misconduct by Cuomo.
The aide who filed the report has accused Cuomo of reaching under her shirt and fondling her when they were alone in a room at the Executive Mansion last year. The woman also told investigators with the attorney general’s office that Cuomo once rubbed her rear end while they were posing together for a photo.
Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, has said the groping allegation was fabricated.
“He is 63 years old. He has spent 40 years in public life and for him to all of the sudden be accused of a sexual assault of an executive assistant that he really doesn’t know, doesn’t pass muster,” Glavin said.
The state Assembly’s judiciary committee plans to meet Monday to discuss the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Cuomo. Nearly two-thirds of the legislative body have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he won’t resign.
The bombshell report dropped by New York Attorney General Letitia James Tuesday, conducted by special outside investigators, concluded Cuomo had criminally sexually harassed 11 women. James said her investigation was technically a civil one, but opened the door for other agencies to investigate behavior she said qualified as criminal in nature.
In a news conference Friday afternoon, the legal team for the governor specifically denied the claims now at issue in Albany County, one of those five with an ongoing probe.
"That woman's story is false. Documentary evidence does not report what she said," said Cuomo's personal attorney, Rita Glavin. "This does not reflect what the executive assistant told the Times-Union. Why did this report ignore evidence and not want to tell you ... Two investigators did not show evidence to you, they ignored it. Ask them why."
Former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, hired to help Cuomo's executive chamber, previously blasted some of the report's findings as irresponsible and error-filled. On Friday, Glavin slammed the attorney general's entire investigation as well.
"I know the difference between putting together a case against a target, versus doing independent fact-finding with an open mind. There was no open-minded fact-finding in this case," she said. "The investigation was conducted in a manner to support a pre-determined narrative."
The attorney general's office responded to the criticisms from the governor's legal team, saying that redacted versions of the interview transcripts will be made available to the state Assembly.
"The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women," said the AG's press secretary, Fabien Levy. "There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence. Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate."
The next likely steps in the criminal investigation are to obtain statements made by the unidentified Executive Assistant #1, ones she made to two other Cuomo staffers (identified as executive assistant #2 and executive assistant #3) about Cuomo’s behavior and alleged groping, and the boyfriend of executive assistant #2, an FBI agent who advised her to obtain counsel, the AG report said.
That’s likely going to take some time. The prosecutor will likely want to determine which specific statutes under New York State Criminal Law the governor may allegedly have violated and proceed accordingly.
According to the independent report, the governor engaged in what they call a pattern of inappropriate behavior dating back to late 2019 involving Executive Assistant #1.
The report says the behavior included, “close and intimate hugs; kisses on the cheeks, forehead, and at least one kiss on the lips; touching and grabbing of Executive Assistant #1’s butt during hugs and, on one occasion, while taking selfies with him; and comments and jokes by the Governor about Executive Assistant #1’s personal life and relationships, including calling her and another assistant “mingle mamas,” inquiring multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband, and asking her to help find him a girlfriend.”
Ultimately, in November 2020 the Governor’s behavior escalated when he hugged the woman and then allegedly reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast.
The report says, “Executive Assistant #1 kept this groping incident to herself and planned to take it “to the grave,” but found herself becoming emotional (in a way that was visible to her colleagues in the Executive Chamber) while watching the Governor state, at a press conference on March 3, 2021, that he had never “touched anyone inappropriately.”
One of the reasons the independent investigators say that the woman didn’t want to report the conduct was because of what she saw happen to Lindsey Boylan after she went public with her allegations.
The report says, “in mid-to-late December 2020, Executive Assistant #1 personally witnessed what she felt were the Executive Chamber’s efforts to discredit the allegations of Ms. Boylan against the Governor, including by repeatedly describing Ms. Boylan as “crazy” and by trying to get Ms. Boylan’s personnel files to the press.”
She told investigators that the efforts to discredit Boylan – which she says she personally witnessed – were conducted by Linda Lacewell (Superintendent of Financial Services), Melissa DeRosa, Rich Azzopardi, and Beth Garvey.
The investigators write, they found Executive Assistant #1 “to be credible both in demeanor and in the substance of her allegations.”
And they write, “Governor Cuomo denied a number of Executive Assistant #1’s allegations, but we found that his denials lacked persuasiveness, were devoid of detail, and were inconsistent with many witnesses’ observations of his behavior toward Executive Assistant #1 and other women in the Executive Chamber.”
The Governor has denied all of the allegations involving Executive Assistant #1 saying earlier this week, “that never happened” and that he welcomed a potential civil suit from the woman because “I welcome the opportunity for a full and fair review before a judge and a jury, because this just did not happen.”
Glavin provided a timeline of some of what she says happened over several hours the day of the alleged incident at the executive mansion. She said that the woman was at the mansion for a few hours, and was never alone with Cuomo, but rather in areas with other members of the governor's staff. Glavin also said records show the governor's schedule on that day would've made it impossible for the incident to have occurred as Executive Assistant #1 described.
Cuomo Impeachment Deadline Looming
The New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee has given Cuomo an Aug. 13 deadline to provide any evidence he wants before the committee considers articles of impeachment against him over the sex harassment scandal.
"We write to inform you that the Committee’s investigation is nearing completion and the Assembly will soon consider potential articles of impeachment against your client," the Assembly committee's lawyers wrote to the governor's lawyers.
"Accordingly, we invite you to provide any additional evidence or written submissions that you would like the Committee to consider before its work concludes. To the extent that you wish to share any such materials with the Committee, please do so by no later than 5:00 pm on August 13, 2021," lawyers from Davis Polk & Wardwell wrote.
Late on Thursday, Cuomo's top spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, issued a statement saying the governor's office would present its case before the Assembly.
"The Governor appreciates the opportunity," he said. "We will be cooperating."
The committee is next set to meet on Monday. It's not clear how long the impeachment process will take, though reports have suggested it could be roughly another month to complete the committee's investigation (combined with the AG's probe), produce its report and articles of impeachment, and then vote on them.
Based on tallies compiled by the AP and others, there appear to be more than sufficient votes to impeach the three-term governor. Under New York law, he would then be temporarily removed from office pending a trial, with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul becoming acting governor in the interim.
Cuomo currently faces no fewer than seven county, state and federal investigations related to alleged sexual harassment, alleged misuse of state resources to produce and promote a 2020 book, and purported cover-ups in COVID nursing home death data.
There are virtually no Democrats left at the local, state or national level who have not called for Cuomo to go.
It's not just political allies that have bailed on Cuomo, either. A new Quinnipiac Poll released Friday found that seven out of 10 New Yorkers — and 57 percent of state Democrats — want Cuomo to resign, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) saying he should be impeached. Compare that to a March 18 poll which showed 43 percent of voters said he should resign. Even more drastic, more than half (55 percent) believe Cuomo should be charged with a crime.