November 27, 2021

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Criminal summons erroneously issued against former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo – Times Union

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ALBANY — A summons charging former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with misdemeanor forcible touching was prematurely issued by Albany City Court on Thursday after a sheriff’s investigator filed paperwork with the court summarizing their investigation and seeking to begin the process of obtaining a criminal complaint.

No final decision had been made by the sheriff’s department or the Albany County district attorney’s office on whether to formally file charges, according to sources familiar with the matter. But a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration confirmed that a misdemeanor complaint against Cuomo was filed Thursday in Albany City Court.

The summons, which has not been served on the former governor, directs Cuomo to appear in City Court on Nov. 17. A law enforcement source said the sheriff’s department did not expect the summons to be issued on Thursday — or to be made public.

The summons was issued without the consent of the alleged victim, Brittany Commisso, or her attorney, Brian D. Premo, according to sources familiar with the matter. However, Commisso has been cooperating with investigators and was planning to move forward with the criminal complaint, according to law enforcement sources.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

A sheriff’s investigator who had been a lead investigator in the case, in which the governor was accused of groping a female aide at the Executive Mansion last year, had met with a City Court official on Thursday to receive “guidance” if the department were to move forward with filing a complaint, which was supposed to happen next week at the earliest, according to a law enforcement source.

It’s unclear what happened after that, but a person briefed on the matter and not authorized to comment publicly said that someone in City Court issued the summons after determining the paperwork submitted by the investigator was sufficient to do so. The investigator had apparently filed the paperwork in anticipation of obtaining a summons next week, if the victim agreed to go forward with any charges, according to sources familiar with the matter. 

The issuance of the summons was leaked almost immediately to a news organization.

The evidence gathered by sheriff’s investigators in the case included text messages, Blackberry “PIN” messages between state troopers who staff the Executive Mansion, cell phone records, and Capitol swipe-card access records that confirmed Commisso returning to her Capitol office after visiting the mansion on Dec. 7, the day of the alleged incident.

The sheriff’s department has been investigating groping allegations against Cuomo since August. That investigation was nearing conclusion but a second source, with law enforcement ties, said that a meeting was scheduled to take place in the coming days to determine whether to move forward with any charges, including obtaining the alleged victim’s consent.

The criminal investigation followed an attorney general’s report that led to Cuomo’s resignation following a four-month investigation that included interviews with the women who accused Cuomo of conduct ranging from making sexually charged remarks to grooming and groping at least one female executive assistant.

The attorney general’s investigation was headed by Joon H. Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District in Manhattan, and Anne L. Clark, who specializes in labor law and sexual harassment cases.

Cuomo has denied kissing a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, and denied groping Commisso, another female aide, at the Executive Mansion last year. Commisso’s allegation is the most incendiary to be leveled against Cuomo, who has dismissed his workplace behavior as “playful” and an attempt to “make jokes that I think are funny.”

Other women also came forward and recounted similar unsettling encounters with the governor, including a woman who was photographed at the wedding of one of Cuomo’s top aides as the governor held her face and asked to kiss her.

The governor stated earlier this year that he “never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”

In the wake of the earliest allegations — before the groping allegations were first reported by the Times Union — Cuomo had authorized Attorney General Letitia James’ office to commence a “review” of the complaints. But that directive did not authorize the attorney general to conduct a criminal investigation or to subpoena witnesses before a grand jury. That authority would have needed to be given to James under a separate provision in Executive Law.

The groping allegations subseqently became the subject of ongoing investigations by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and the Albany County district attorney’s office after Commisso filed a formal complaint with the sheriff’s office in August.

On Oct. 11, the Times Union reported that electronic records gathered by investigators for the state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which is expected to issue a report on their investigation that began as an impeachment proceeding, showed Commisso was at the governor’s mansion with Cuomo on Dec. 7.

Chris Bragg contributed reporting for this story.

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