Upstate New York DA says no charges against Andrew Cuomo, insists it's 'not an exoneration'

Adam Reiss and Doha Madani
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrives to depart in his helicopter after announcing his resignation in New York City, August 10, 2021.
Caitlin Ochs | Reuters

The district attorney's office in Oswego County, New York, has declined to pursue charges against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo — but insisted the decision is "not an exoneration," rather a limitation of the law.

Virginia Limmiatis accused Cuomo of touching her without her consent during a 2017 conservation event in the upstate county, according to a report from New York Attorney General Letitia James last year.

Though Limmiatis' recollection of events was "reliable and reasonable," Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes said Monday there was not sufficient legal basis for charges.

"The current sex offense statutes in New York fail to properly hold offenders accountable and fail to adequately protect victims," Oakes said in a statement. "If justice is to ever be obtained for the countless victims who are sexually abused and harassed in this state each day, the law must be revised and reformed to reflect the lived experiences of victims."

According to the attorney general report, Limmiatis was waiting to meet Cuomo at the 2017 event wearing a shirt with the name of the energy company she worked for written across the chest. When she finally met him, Cuomo allegedly ran his fingers across her chest and read the company's name out as he went.

"The Governor then leaned in, with his face close to Ms. Limmiatis's cheek, and said, 'I'm going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,' before brushing his hand in the area between her shoulder and breasts (and below her collarbone)," the report said.

Limmiatis on Monday thanked the prosecutor's office for their review of her case in a statement, saying that she hadn't reported Cuomo at the time of the incident because of his position of power.

"Cuomo not only touched my chest inappropriately, but whispered in my ear afterwards to make up a patently ridiculous excuse to cover up his behavior," Limmiatis said. "I immediately spoke to multiple people about what Cuomo had done to me, precisely because I was so disturbed and upset by it."

She added that she was encouraged by the other women who spoke out about their own interactions with Cuomo and was happy the former governor was pushed to step down.

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"So many women suffer in silence and are not supported when they come forward," Limmiatis said.

Cuomo announced his resignation in August, after the state attorney general's investigation found at least 11 credible accusations of harassment against him. The former governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately, but acknowledged that he may have acted in ways that made people feel uncomfortable.

Responding to the Oswego DA's announcement, Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin on Monday said, "Truth and the rule of law prevailed, not politics or mob mentality."

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi on Monday called the attorney general's report a "fraud" that has not stood up to scrutiny.

"This has always been a political hit job to further the Attorney General's own ambitions, which both reeks of prosecutorial misconduct and has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars," Azzopardi said Monday. "As we've said since the beginning, the truth will come out."

District attorneys in Nassau and Westchester counties similarly declined to pursue charges against Cuomo in the case of two other accusers last year. Both prosecutors in those cases noted that the accounts by the two women were credible, but did not meet statutory requirements of the criminal laws of New York.

A misdemeanor charge of forcible touching was dropped earlier this month by the Albany County District Attorney's Office after prosecutors said they would not be able to meet the burden of proof at trial. The office said that the "complainant in this case cooperative and credible."