The Albany County sheriff investigating claims Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually assaulted a staffer said Saturday that the governor will be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor if they prove the claim is credible. The criminal investigation, believed to be the first brought against Cuomo after the staffer filed the complaint, comes as the embattled governor fights for his political survival.
“I’m not going to rush it because of who he is, and I’m not going to delay it because of who he is,” Sheriff Craig Apple said of the Cuomo investigation at a news briefing. He added the investigation will be treated like any other probe his office carries out. Asked whether the sheriff’s office will carry out the arrest if Cuomo is charged, Apple said, “absolutely.”
Apple provided few details of the criminal complaint filed by the accuser, who has not been named though is expected to appear in a joint interview CBS This Morning and the Times Union on Monday. She was also referred to as “Executive Assistant #1” in a damning 168-page report released by State Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday corroborating allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. Apple said the woman, who is still a state employee, made the formal complaint to the sheriff’s office with her attorney in an hour-long meeting on Thursday afternoon, triggering an investigation.
Apple did not specify what the accuser told investigators, but said the claim against Cuomo was “sexual in nature” and involved criminal conduct. In the attorney general’s report, the assistant claimed Cuomo placed his hand underneath her blouse and groped her breast inside the Executive Mansion in November last year.
My statement after Albany Sheriff Craig Apple’s press conference to discuss Executive Assistant #1 coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Governor Cuomo ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/iXXNMvzlHI
— Fabien Levy (@Fabien_Levy) August 7, 2021
Sheriff’s investigators have now requested the state attorney general’s office turn over evidence related to the incident mentioned in the report. In a statement released shortly after the news conference, a spokesperson for James said the attorney general’s office will “cooperate fully” in handing over state’s evidence.
Apple said that if the investigation determines the claims are true, his office will meet with the Albany County District Attorney’s Office to proceed with a formal charge and arrest. The investigation will involve interviews with the accuser and any relevant witnesses, Apple said. Apple mentioned that investigators haven’t ruled out interviewing the governor.
During the press conference Apple repeatedly referred to the assistant and all the women mentioned in the report as “victims,” acknowledging the stress they‘ve endured in coming forward.
“They’ve been through a rough period of time. The last thing I want to do is continue to re-victimize. Every time their faces pop up on TV, or their names are mentioned on TV or on radio it does in fact put more stressors on them,” Apple said.
The attorney general’s investigation into Cuomo began in March shortly after the first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, a former staffer in his administration, wrote in a Medium post in February that the governor asked Boylan to play “strip poker” with him while on a flight in October 2017. More women soon came forward with accusations, including Charlotte Bennett, another former staffer, who said Cuomo asked questions about her sex life while saying he’s open to having relationships with women in their 20s.
Another woman, identified as a “Trooper #1” in the attorney general’s report, said Cuomo sexually assaulted her numerous times after he requested her transfer to his private security detail. In one instance, according to the report, Cuomo ran his fingers down her spine and towards her rear end while saying, “Hey you.”
The release of the attorney general’s report amplified calls from critics and elected officials for the governor to resign, and spurred a greater push for the State Assembly to begin issuing articles of impeachment against the governor. The Assembly Judiciary Committee, which hired outside investigators to conduct its own probe into the accusations against Cuomo and other separate allegations linked to his administration, is expected to meet on Monday to discuss the report and next steps.
If the Judiciary Committee recommends articles of impeachment be drafted, they can thenn be presented to the full Assembly for a vote by late August or early September. If approved, the State Senate will then carry out a trial, during which time Cuomo will have to temporarily step down. Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will then serve as interim governor during the course of the trial.
READ MORE: How Does Impeachment Work in New York?
Cuomo has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, while apologizing for any misunderstanding for his actions. On Friday, Cuomo’s attorneys criticized the report and its investigatory procedures, arguing that witnesses did not receive transcripts of their testimony ahead of the report’s release to determine their accuracy. Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s personal attorney, said the governor will be responding to these claims made against the women, but did not say when. A spokesperson for the governor referred back to Glavin’s comments on when Cuomo will address the claims.
On Saturday, Glavin appeared on CNN to dispute the accounts of the assistant saying the evidence does not support the claims made.
“We have a report that’s not accurate, that did not go through all of the evidence,” Glavin said. “This was no Mueller investigation.”
She also repeated that the governor will personally address the claims, but once again did not say when. Glavin, however, did not dispute the accounts of most of the women in the report, but said none of it was criminal.
Asked whether he fears any retaliation from the governor’s office over the investigation, Apple said it won’t be wise for anyone to go after the sheriff’s office.
“I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not going to be coerced. That will not play out well for anybody,” Apple said.