Politics

Cuomo staffer who accused governor of groping files criminal complaint

Key Points
  • A staffer for embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who told investigators he groped her breast and rear end has filed a criminal complaint against the Democrat.
  • Cuomo, who is facing likely impeachment, could be arrested if the Albany County DA determines there is probable cause to believe the woman's claim.
  • The woman is identified as "Executive Assistant #1" in a report on Cuomo's alleged sexual harassment of nearly a dozen women issued by state Attorney General Letitia James.
A December 31, 2019, "selfie" photo taken of a woman identified as "Executive Assistant #1, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, contained in a report issued by office of Attorney General Letitia James. The woman has made a criminal complaint against Cuomo, who allegedly groped her rear end when this photo was taken.
Source: New York Attorney General's Office

A staffer for embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who told investigators he groped her breast and rear end has filed a criminal complaint against the Democrat, the Albany County sheriff's office said Friday.

The county district attorney's office has been notified of the woman's claims by the sheriff, according to the New York Post.

The newspaper first reported that she had lodged her complaint Thursday afternoon with the sheriff's office. Details of that complaint were not disclosed.

The 63-year-old Cuomo, who is facing an expected impeachment, could be arrested if authorities determine there is probable cause to believe the woman's claim.

VIDEO1:2201:22
Cuomo's legal troubles grow

The woman who made the complaint was identified Tuesday as "Executive Assistant #1" in a damning report on Cuomo's alleged sexual harassment of nearly a dozen women issued by state Attorney General Letitia James, an Albany County sheriff's department spokesperson told NBC News.

James' report included a selfie photo of Cuomo and the woman taken in December 2019 at the Executive Mansion in Albany. The woman has told investigators retained by James that Cuomo grabbed and then rubbed her rear end when the photo was taken.

Cuomo has denied the woman's claims. Three of his lawyers appeared at news conference Friday afternoon to slam James' report.

One of those lawyers, Rita Glavin, laid out a series of details that she said refuted the executive assistant's claims.

But Glavin acknowledged that the woman has made "perhaps the most significant allegation against the governor" in the report.

"In essence, she has accused the governor of sexual assault," Glavin said. "The governor has denied that ever took place."

Sheriff Craig Apple told the Post: "The end result [of the woman's complaint to his office] could either be it sounds substantiated and an arrest is made and it would be up to the DA to prosecute the arrest." Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

CNBC has reached out for comment from the Albany County DA's office.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at a daily briefing at North Shore University Hospital, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhasset, New York, May 6, 2020.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

At least three other DA offices, in Manhattan and in Nassau and Westchester counties, have asked James for investigative materials collected as part of the probe of Cuomo.

The investigation by lawyers retained by James concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women who work or had worked for the state and elsewhere, retaliated against one of the accusers, and presided over a toxic office culture laden with fear and intimidation.

The report detailed multiple instances of Cuomo touching women in ways that made them feel uncomfortable and making comments that likewise unsettled them.

James said Cuomo "violated federal and state law" with his conduct. But she did not file criminal charges.

"Executive Assistant #1" is the first woman whose claims against Cuomo are described in detail in James' report.

The report says that "since approximately late 2019, the Governor engaged in a pattern of inappropriate conduct with an executive assistant ("Executive Assistant#1"), who is a woman."

"That pattern of conduct included: (1) close and intimate hugs; (2) kisses on the cheeks, forehead, and at least one kiss on the lips; (3) touching and grabbing of Executive Assistant #1's butt during hugs and, on one occasion, while taking selfies with him; and (4) comments and jokes by the Governor about Executive Assistant #1's personal life and relationships, including calling her and another assistant "mingle mamas," the report said.

Cuomo also asked the woman "multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband, and asking her to help find him a girlfriend," according to the report

"These offensive interactions, among others, culminated in an incident at the Executive Mansion in November 2020 when the Governor, during another close hug with Executive Assistant #1, reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast," the report said.

"For over three months, 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,'" according to the report.

"She then confided in certain of her colleagues, who in turn reported her allegations to senior staff in the Executive Chamber."

The report also described an encounter on Dec. 31, 2019, when Executive Assistant #1 was helping Cuomo in his office at the Executive Mansion in Albany "when the Governor asked her to take a "selfie" photograph with him."

"Governor Cuomo stood next to Executive Assistant #1, on her left, as she took a selfie with her right hand," the report said. "As Executive Assistant #1 held up the camera, the Governor moved his hand to grab her butt cheek and began to rub it. The rubbing lasted at least five seconds."

Cuomo later ordered her "not to share the photograph with anyone else" other than one particular fellow staffer, according to the report.

Cuomo, who is in his third term, has strongly denied sexually harassing any woman, including Executive Assistant #1.

But in the days since James' report was issued, the governor has appeared to lose virtually all of his remaining political defenders.

President Joe Biden and New York's two Democratic U.S. senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as many other Democrats and the head of the party in New York have called on Cuomo to resign.

A top state Assembly committee warned Cuomo this week it will soon conclude an impeachment inquiry into his conduct, and asked him to give the panel any evidence for the probe.