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Here’s a look at the civil lawsuits and criminal investigations New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is likely to face in the coming months as he returns to privacy following his resignation on Tuesday over a harassment scandal. sexual.
HAS CUOMO BEEN ACCUSED OF CRIMES?
No. He is the subject of a criminal investigation.
Prosecutors in Manhattan, Nassau County, Albany County, Westchester County and Oswego County have requested evidence in an independent investigation launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James, while reviewing the case.
These local prosecutors, known as district attorneys, would be the ones who would bring criminal charges.
James’ report revealed he groped, kissed, or made suggestive comments to women, including officials past and present – including a state soldier – and retaliated against at least one woman who had accused him of sexual misconduct.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing. He said he accepts “full responsibility” for what he called ill-conceived attempts to be affectionate or humorous, but said he would step down in two weeks for the good of the state.
Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, said James’ investigation, which was civilian in nature, “was conducted to support a predetermined narrative” and “left material behind.”
One of Cuomo’s accusers, Brittany Commisso, filed a complaint with Albany Police last week alleging the governor groped his chest at the Executive Mansion last November.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told a press conference his office would conduct a full investigation.
WHAT CRIMES MIGHT ATTORNEYS CONSIDER?
Apple said Commisso’s complaint alleging Cuomo had groped her could lead to misdemeanor charges.
The two most applicable crimes under New York law would be “forced touching” and “third degree sexual abuse,” said Julie Rendelman, criminal defense attorney and former Brooklyn prosecutor.
Forced touching, the more serious of the two offenses, can carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison, but Rendelman said jail time was “highly unlikely” for any accused who had not previously been charged with ‘a crime.
DOES CUOMO’S STATUS MAKE IT MORE OR LESS LIKELY TO BE CHARGED?
Ross Garber, an attorney who focuses on political investigations, said Cuomo’s resignation could ease public pressure on New York prosecutors to indict him.
“Given the variety of criminal investigations, divergent issues, and diverse jurisdictions, it’s impossible to say for sure” if Cuomo will be charged, “Garber said. “But the resignation takes some oxygen from the wildfire that has developed for the aftermath of Cuomo’s actions.”
ARE THERE OBSTACLES TO A CRIMINAL CASE?
In criminal cases, the prosecution must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern University and a former prosecutor, said Cuomo’s accusers may be reluctant to submit to the emotional turmoil of a criminal trial if he’s only charged with misdemeanors.
“It’s really hard to testify in a criminal trial,” Tuerkheimer said.
Judith Olin, a law professor at the University of Buffalo and former New York State prosecutor specializing in sexual assault cases, said any prosecution could face a skyrocketing given the lack of evidence physical and witnesses.
WHAT ABOUT CIVIL PROSECUTIONS?
An attorney for Lindsey Boylan, a former aide who was the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo last December, said she plans to press charges against Cuomo. Other accusers could follow his lead, Rendelman said.
A landmark federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, prohibits gender discrimination, which includes sexual harassment, in the workplace.
Cuomo’s accusers using this law would directly sue New York State – their employer – rather than Cuomo, said Ann Juliano, a law professor at Villanova University.
Under New York law, sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature – from sexual jokes to unwanted flirtation – that creates an offensive work environment, regardless of the intent.
Juliano said Cuomo’s accusers could rely on a landmark New York law, championed by Cuomo in 2019, that made it easier for victims of sexual harassment to prove their case in court. Alleged victims no longer have to meet the high bar of proving that sexual harassment is “serious and pervasive”.
To win in a civil lawsuit, Cuomo’s accusers would only have to convince jurors that there was more than a 50% chance that their allegations were true.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER CUOMO LEGAL ISSUES?
Brooklyn federal prosecutors are investigating whether, as governor, Cuomo deliberately downplayed the number of nursing home deaths linked to COVID-19.
New York health officials released a report in July denying that their policies had caused an increase in the number of deaths.
James, the attorney general, also investigated whether Cuomo abused state resources to write and promote a book he published last October about his leadership during the early months of the pandemic.