If it is true that Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached under the blouse of a female employee and groped her without consent it would constitute a crime under New York law. Unwanted sexual contact falls under the broad category of sexual assault.
The Albany County district attorney must now open a criminal investigation. In addition, the current probe by the New York attorney general must scrutinize the latest evidence in the context of sexual assault laws. If the allegation has merit and the accuser is credible, Cuomo should be criminally charged and face trial.
The appalling complaint by a sixth accuser, as reported by the Albany Times Union, suggests not only a pattern of sexual harassment by the governor but a level of offensive conduct that appears to have crossed the legal line into felonious behavior.
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The woman, whose identity has not been disclosed, is a member of the executive chamber staff. She reportedly told her female supervisor that Cuomo summoned her to the Executive Mansion in Albany last year, saying he needed assistance with his cellphone. Once there in his private residence, the woman says the governor closed the door, lifted her blouse and aggressively fondled her in a sexually charged manner.
The alleged victim, who is considerably younger than Cuomo, says she told him to stop. But it was not the first time. She claims he had touched her before and was frequently flirtatious. Cuomo has denied the allegations.
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Yet, another of Cuomo’s accusers, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, has said he used the exact same ploy on her. Through her attorney, she issued a statement saying the governor asked her to come to his office in the Capitol one weekend to help him with his cellphone. Once alone, she claims that he questioned her about her sex life and propositioned her.
A total of six women have come forward accusing Cuomo of nonconsensual kissing, inappropriate touching and sexual harassment. Five of the alleged incidents happened in the workplace. But the latest may pose the most serious potential for criminal charges against Cuomo because the standard two-year statute of limitations has not run.
Under New York’s penal code section 130.52, it is a crime to “forcibly touch the sexual or other intimate parts of another person” against their will. The statute is very specific. It identifies groping or fondling as criminal. It is forcible if it is unwanted. This kind of illegal behavior is precisely what the sixth accuser has described. It would also constitute the crime of harassment as defined by state law.
The accounts of a half a dozen accusers who have bravely stepped forward paint a vivid picture of a governor as a sexual predator who exploited his power to prey on women. His despicable response is to blame the victims – it’s their fault for “misinterpreting it as unwanted flirtation.” Cuomo claimed he was just “being playful.” At one point, he even blamed his father, as if learned behavior somehow makes it OK. Assaulting a woman is no more permissible because someone else did it.
Cuomo’s lame excuses, insipid rationalizations and anemic denials won’t cut it in a court of law where facts and evidence prevail.
Cuomo’s lame excuses, insipid rationalizations and anemic denials won’t cut it in a court of law where facts and evidence prevail. Yes, it is difficult to prove a sexual assault case absent an independent eyewitness. But testimony by a competent witness-victim is sufficient evidence on its own. This is especially true where there are other victims who can establish a pattern of conduct by the defendant, as we saw in the conviction of Harvey Weinstein.
Allegations, of course, are not proof of guilt. The governor is entitled to the due process that he now demands, even though he never afforded it to anyone else. When issues of sexual harassment or assault were raised against others, he promptly pronounced them guilty without due process. For example, Cuomo called the accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh presumptively true, all but calling him a rapist. By his own standard, the governor should presume himself guilty.
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Cuomo has always been a bully and a political thug who menaced people with intimidation and threats. Now, he’s under federal investigation for allegedly falsifying data in a suspected coverup of thousands of nursing home deaths. But the stories of sexual harassment and unwanted fondling surely constitute the final paragraph in Cuomo’s political obituary. He’ll never hold public office again. He’s finished.
The only question that remains unanswered is whether Gov. Cuomo will be criminally charged.
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