ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo could face misdemeanor charges if investigators substantiate a criminal complaint accusing the governor of groping an aide last year, the Albany County sheriff said Saturday.
Sheriff Craig Apple promised a “very comprehensive” investigation but said it would be premature to commit to a timeline or say whether Cuomo himself will be questioned.
“We have a lot of factfinding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do," Apple told reporters. "We’re not going to rush this because of who he is. We’re not going to delay this because of who he is.”
The complaint, filed this week, is the first known instance where a woman has made an official report with a law enforcement agency over alleged misconduct by the Democratic governor.
The aide says Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled 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 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.
Apple declined to release the complaint Saturday but described the allegation as “sexual in nature.” He said his office has a “proven record” of helping victims, adding he does not fear retaliation for moving forward with such a high-profile investigation.
“I'm the county sheriff. I'm not going to be intimidated. I'm not going to be coerced,” he said. “That would not play out well for anybody.”
Cuomo has faced renewed calls to step down after an independent investigation overseen by the state Attorney General’s Office concluded he sexually harassed 11 women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers.
The attorney general’s report describes a series of times Cuomo allegedly acted inappropriately with the aide described as Executive Assistant #1, culminating with the groping encounter at the mansion in November 2020.
According to the woman, Cuomo pulled her in for a hug as she prepared to leave the governor’s office at the mansion. Told that “you’re going to get us in trouble,” Cuomo replied, “I don’t care,” and slammed the door shut. He slid his hand up her blouse, and grabbed her breast over her bra, according to her account.
“I have to tell you, it was — at the moment, I was in such shock that I could just tell you that I just remember looking down seeing his hand, seeing the top of my bra,” she told investigators.
She said she pulled away from Cuomo, telling him “You’re crazy.”
Apple said he has requested investigative materials from the Attorney General's Office.
“I think we've all read the attorney general's report,” he said. “At this point I'm very comfortable and safe saying she is, in fact, a victim.”
Cuomo has adamantly denied touching the woman's breasts, saying “I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing.”
A spokesman for the Erie County District Attorney's Office told The News on Saturday that staff had reached out to the Attorney General's Office following the release of its report accusing Cuomo of harassing 11 women and determined none of the alleged incidents occurred in Erie County.
"We had asked the AG’s Office about the incident that was referenced in page 70 of the report where it mentioned Western New York," said the spokesman, Joe Spino. "Specifically we had asked about the location. We received a response and we concluded that that incident did not occur in Erie County."
The incident described on Page 70 involves an October 2017 flight from Western New York in which Cuomo is accused of joking with an aide about playing strip poker.
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.
News staff contributed to this report.