Cuomo Is Under Criminal Investigation and Facing Legal Jeopardy
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is under criminal investigation, Albany County District Attorney said Tuesday, as a New York State Attorney General report found governor violated the law federal and state by sexually harassing its employees.
The report, released by Attorney General Letitia James, and the announcement by Albany County Attorney David Soares, put Mr. Cuomo’s political future in jeopardy while putting him in legal jeopardy.
“Governor Cuomo has sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws,” Ms. James said, adding that the governor’s administration had “fostered a toxic workplace” in which staff suppressed complaints because of a “climate of fear”. “
“This investigation has revealed conduct which corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government,” Ms. James said.
One of the investigators Ms James hired, Anne L. Clark, said Mr Cuomo’s behavior violated a legal standard he himself signed into law regarding the determination of gender-based harassment in the workplace. work.
“In New York, a woman just has to show that she has been treated less well, at least in part because of her gender,” Ms. Clark said. “The governor’s conduct, detailed in the report, clearly meets and far exceeds this standard. “
Shortly after the report was released, Mr. Soares released a statement saying his office was investigating Mr. Cuomo’s behavior and would request investigative documents that the attorney general’s office had obtained. Mr. Soares encouraged other victims to come forward to help with the investigation.
It was not immediately clear when Mr. Soares opened his investigation or exactly what behavior he was investigating. A spokeswoman for her office, Cecilia Walsh, said only that the office was investigating “any allegation which could reach the level of criminal conduct.”
In an interview with NBC Nightly News, Mr. Soares said some of the allegations suggested criminal activity had taken place, but that his office would conduct its own independent investigation.
He added that no accuser had lodged a formal complaint with his office, even though his investigators had sought to contact some of them.
Rita Glavin, an attorney for Mr. Cuomo, released a preliminary response to the report Tuesday afternoon, calling it “unfair” and “inaccurate.”
“Unfortunately, as the report’s findings show, investigators conducted a totally biased investigation and deliberately ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative they sought to weave,” his response said.
The attorney general’s report said the Albany Police Department had been made aware of the allegations in the report, including that the governor groped the chest of an anonymous executive assistant.
An attorney for the executive assistant, whose identity has not been disclosed, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Several lawyers have said the actions outlined in the report could constitute a sexual assault offense and that prosecutors in Albany could consider that charge, among others.
Kevin Mintzer, an attorney who has represented several women in sexual misconduct cases, said while Mr. Cuomo could clearly be held individually responsible in state civil court for his conduct, a criminal charge could be difficult to prove for prosecutors.
“Our criminal laws don’t cover much of what sexual harassment is, at least in the workplace,” he said.
Understanding the scandals that challenge Governor Cuomo’s leadership
In practice, Mr Mintzer said, prosecutors would have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, a high legal hurdle.
“It is a fact that such touching and groping in the workplace is generally not the subject of criminal prosecution,” said Mintzer. “Whether or not it is as it should be is a separate question. “
The attorney general’s report focused on what it called violations of federal and state civil law, concluding that Mr. Cuomo’s actions created a hostile work environment. The governor may be prosecuted by one or more of his accusers based on the behavior described by witnesses in the report.
Lawyer for one of her accusers, Charlotte Bennett, said her client had no plans to prosecute, but lawyers for some of the other women, including Lindsey Boylan, Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, said that no final decision had been taken.
“Ms. Boylan is not ruling out any options,” said her lawyer, Jill Basinger.
Under New York State law, individuals, as well as employers, can be held liable in civil court for a hostile work environment if the individuals are found to be “personally involved.” in harassment.
Lawyers for women Mr. Cuomo allegedly sexually harassed called on him to resign on Tuesday, calling the report “damning” and “devastating.”
Debra Katz, Ms Bennett’s lawyer, said in an interview that investigators had done a thorough job and called on Mr Cuomo to “do the right thing and quit.”
“His behavior was blatant and he does not deserve the post he occupies now,” she said.
Mariann Wang, lawyer for Ms McGrath and Ms Limmiatis, said the report showed Mr Cuomo should not be in a position of power. Ms Limmiatis accused the governor of touching her inappropriately; Ms McGrath said he made inappropriate comments about his personal life.
“He harassed and humiliated women, basically treating them like objects, and if they dared to complain or not participate, he brutally punished them,” Ms. Wang said.
She added that while Mr. Cuomo did not end up facing criminal charges, that did not suggest that the behavior described in the report was not “incredibly serious.”
“Just because someone is not prosecuted on criminal charges does not mean that their behavior is acceptable or legal,” she said.
William K. Rashbaum contributed reports.
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