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US: Sexual Misconduct Claim Against Andrew Cuomo 'not Criminal', District Attorney Rules

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce Smith said allegations against Andrew Cuomo were "credible, deeply troubling but not criminal under NY law."

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An acting district attorney ruled out criminal charges against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday. Cuomo was accused of sexual harassment by a female state trooper who reported that she felt "completely violated" by Cuomo's unwanted touching at an event at Belmont Park in September 2019, a Long Island prosecutor was quoted by Daily Mail as saying.

However, Acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce Smith said it was found during the investigation that the allegations against the 64-year-old former lawmaker were "credible, deeply troubling but not criminal under New York law."

The investigation was opened by Smith after Attorney General Letitia James provided a report on sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo. The report was a collective statement from 11 women that led to his resignation from the post, though he said the report was biased and inaccurate. On Thursday, Cuomo's spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, said in a statement that it was common for the former governor to acknowledge a trooper who would hold the door open for him, but he didn’t recall touching the trooper.

"As he has said many times, Gov. Cuomo did not remember touching the trooper, but said that it was a common custom for him to acknowledge the presence of a trooper—male or female—holding a door as he walked past them, "Azzopardi said, adding, "This was only meant to be an acknowledgment of their presence and nothing more."

US: Attorney General Letitia James accuses Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment

According to James' report, Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women on different occasions, and it was clearly a violation of federal and state civil rights laws. However, it is up to prosecutors to pursue potential criminal penalties against him, she added. The report claims that the trooper said the former governor tried to sexually harass her as he touched her abdomen and even ran the palm of his left hand to her belly button and then to her right hip, where she kept her gun. This happened at Belmont Park on 23 September 2019, when the trooper held a door open for his exit. 

One of the members of Cuomo's security group told James' investigators that Cuomo's behaviour at the event made her feel "completely violated because, to me, that’s between my chest and my privates." The report also stated that the trooper was quite upset by Cuomo's conduct, but she felt helpless. "I'm a trooper, newly assigned to the travel team. Do I want to make waves?" she was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying. "I’ve heard horror stories about people getting kicked off the detail or transferred over for little things like that... I had no plans to report it," she added

Other harassment allegations against Cuomo

The investigation team was told that what happened at Belmont Park was just one of many instances of Cuomo’s "flirtatious" and "creepy" behaviour toward her. In another instance, Cuomo touched on the trooper's back in an elevator and even asked to kiss her in the driveway outside his Mount Kisco home, and then he also proceeded to peck her cheek, she said.

"I remember just freezing, being — in the back of my head, I’m like, "oh, how do I say no politely?" She told investigators

Notably, the Belmont Park incident was investigated by Nassau County, which is situated on the border with New York. There are several allegations reported to authorities in other parts of the state, the report claimed. Earlier, in October, a case was filed against Cuomo accusing him of inappropriately touching a woman.

In the one-page criminal complaint that was filed in the Albany County sheriff’s office, a woman stated that Cuomo had touched her breast at the governor’s mansion in late 2020 and that it was "potentially defective." The court had delayed Cuomo’s scheduled arraignment until January 7. After the release of James' report, the US Department of Justice ordered a civil inquiry against Cuomo, and the current status of the inquiry is unclear.

(With inputs from AP, Image: AP)

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