State Watch

Upstate New York district attorney declines to pursue sexual harassment case against Cuomo

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A district attorney in upstate New York has declined to pursue criminal charges against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), contending there is “not a sufficient legal basis” to bring charges against the ex-governor in connection to a sexual harassment allegation.

Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes announced in a statement on Monday that he will not criminally charge Cuomo related to a sexual harassment allegation from a woman named Virginia Limmiatis.

Limmiatis accused Cuomo of running two of his fingers down her shirt while she stood in a rope line in May 2017. She said the governor leaned toward her and whispered “I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder” before “brushing his hand in the area between her shoulder and breasts (and below her collarbone),” according to the report from New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office.

An investigation led by James’s office found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, one of whom was Limmiatis. She told other attendees at the event what had happened but did not go public with her story until March 3, after she heard Cuomo say at a press conference that he had never touched anyone inappropriately.

Oakes said despite there not being a “sufficient legal basis” for criminal charges, he still believes Limmiatis was “reliable and reasonable, seemingly motivated only by an earnest desire to do the right thing.” 

“To be clear, this decision is based solely upon an assessment of the law and whether the People can establish a legally sufficient case under controlling precedent,” Oakes said in a statement, according to Politico.

“In no way should this decision be interpreted as casting doubt upon the character or credibility of Ms. Limmiatis, or how harmful the acts she experienced were,” he added.

Limmiatis on Monday reemphasized her allegations against Cuomo, saying in a statement that the governor “not only touched my chest inappropriately, but whispered in my ear afterwards to make up a patently ridiculous excuse to cover up his behavior,” according to The Associated Press.

She said she immediately told others about the incident because she was “so disturbed and upset by it,” according to NBC News.

Following Monday’s decision in Oswego County, Rita Glavin, an attorney for Cuomo, said, “Truth and the rule of law prevailed, not politics or mob mentality.”

Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi knocked the state attorney general’s office, writing in a statement that the investigation into the former governor “has always been a political hit job to further the Attorney General’s own ambitions, which both reeks of prosecutorial misconduct and has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.”

“As we’ve said since the beginning, the truth will come out,” he added.

A spokesperson for James’s office, however, pushed back on those claims, saying the findings from the investigation “have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence, the Assembly’s report, and multiple District Attorneys, including the Oswego DA today, who have said that these women and their allegations of sexual harassment by the former governor are ‘credible.’”

“Mr. Cuomo’s relentless attacks on these brave women will not mask the truth — he is a serial sexual harasser,” the spokesperson added.

Oakes’s decision comes almost one month after the Albany County district attorney announced that his office would not be prosecuting a groping charge against Cuomo, despite finding the accusation to be credible.

District attorneys in New York’s Nassau and Westchester counties also declined to take up charges against Cuomo. Both cases cited a failure to meet criminal law statutory requirements.

Cuomo resigned from the governorship in August after James’s office released its report detailing allegations of sexual harassment. Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately or making inappropriate sexual advances but did recognize that his past actions could have made others feel uncomfortable. In March, he apologized for potentially making people uncomfortable.

This story was updated Feb. 1, 2022 at 4:53 p.m.

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