Governor Andrew Cuomo has evaded a lengthy post-resignation impeachment trial, meaning he could run again for state office, but his legal woes are not over.
For one, the state assembly has now promised to make the results of their investigation public. The assembly’s probe looked at sexual harassment allegations, Cuomo’s withholding of the death count of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19, as well as the potential misuse of state resources to write his pandemic-era memoir.
State Attorney General Letitia James is also looking into some of those issues, as are prosecutors on the local and federal level, leaving the door open for Cuomo to face further penalties, beyond simply the loss of his job and home in the governor’s mansion. Here’s a breakdown of the other investigations and lawsuits Cuomo is, or could be, facing.
Criminal Probes In Five Jurisdictions
Five district attorneys have requested materials from the State Attorney General’s office in order to consider potential criminal charges against Cuomo for instances of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place in Albany, Manhattan, Westchester, Nassau and Oswego counties, as detailed in the AG’s report released earlier this month.
Several women described unwanted kisses and touching from Cuomo and current staffer Brittany Commisso said he groped her under her blouse last fall. According to criminal defense attorney Matthew Galluzo, county prosecutors could choose to bring charges against Cuomo in the form of a forcible touching count, a class A misdemeanor, or as sexual abuse in the third degree, a class B misdemeanor. Forcible touching carries a maximum of one year in prison.
If Cuomo is convicted on multiple counts in New York state, he could potentially have to register as a sex offender, though Galluzo says it’s not required after a single conviction.
“Because there’s multiple cases here and multiple incidents, it is conceivable that he would eventually be registered as a sex offender,” Galluzo said. “That is definitely possible.”
State data from the Division of Criminal Justice Services shows about half of the forcible touching cases in the state tend to end with convictions or sentencing, and most of those are settled with a conditional discharge, not jail time.
Civil Lawsuits Based On Violations Of Sexual Harassment Laws
Lindsey Boylan has already said she intends to sue the governor for sexual harassment and retaliation after Cuomo’s aides leaked her personnel files to the press once she said she’d been sexually harassed by Cuomo on Twitter.
Other women have retained lawyers, including the unnamed state trooper, now being represented by Gloria Allred, as well as Brittany Commisso, who said she was groped by Cuomo under her blouse in the executive mansion last fall.
Cuomo’s stature at the helm of state government, as well as the extensive report from the Attorney General’s office that documented a pattern of targeting women, makes the women’s cases particularly strong, according to Marjorie Mesidor, a Partner at Phillips & Associates, where she specializes in sexual harassment cases.
“Depending on the egregiousness of the allegations, if you have a serial harasser at the C-suite level, or executive level like the governor, those are seven figure settlements,” she said. If the governor faces multiple lawsuits, he could declare personal bankruptcy and put the financial burden on the state, she added. “The New York taxpayer [might be] paying some hefty settlements.”
Federal Probe Into Nursing Homes
Federal investigators with the FBI and the Eastern District of New York have been eyeing Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the course of the pandemic since February, shortly after top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admitted to state lawmakers that they deliberately withheld the death toll in nursing homes from the federal government and the state.
The contours of that probe have emerged through various news reports since; with federal investigators considering the changing of a health department report to exclude the number of nursing home residents who died in hospitals, the prioritized access to COVID-19 tests for Cuomo’s friends and family, the inclusion of legal immunity for nursing homes in the state budget last year, and Cuomo’s book deal.
It’s still unclear what charges Cuomo could face if any from the federal probe, and the timeline for completion is also unknown. A separate civil rights inquiry from the federal government was closed out without charges in July.
State Attorney General Probe Into Book Deal
While the sexual harassment probe has concluded, AG James’ office is still investigating potential breaches of state law surrounding Cuomo’s lucrative $5 million book deal in April.
The investigation, which appears to overlap with one being conducted by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), looks at whether Cuomo misused state resources during the writing and drafting of his memoir, or whether the payout from his book impacted his actions in office—for example, whether he deliberately withheld the number of nursing home residents who died from COVID in order to assure his book deal went through, which is a concern some good government groups have raised.
Breaches of state ethics laws typically result in fines.