DA drops Andrew Cuomo’s last sexual harassment criminal case

New York Post – by Bernadette Hogan

ALBANY — An upstate district attorney’s office is dropping its criminal investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo — shutting down the last of five criminal cases involving the disgraced ex-governor.

But Oswego DA Gregory Oakes told The Post on Monday that while there’s not “sufficient legal basis” to bring charges based on allegations of unwanted physical contact by accuser Virginia Limmiatis, “this decision is not an exoneration.”

“After a thorough review of the available evidence and applicable law, the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office has concluded that there is not a sufficient legal basis to bring criminal charges against former Governor Andrew Cuomo based upon the allegations of unwanted physical contact made by Virginia Limmiatis,” Oakes said in a statement Monday.

“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. 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.

Oakes told The Post in a phone interview that he’s worked special victims cases for 20 years and believes Limmiatis’ description of events.

“In no way should this be a positive reflection on Andrew Cuomo. This decision is not an exoneration,” he said.

Limmiatis, 55, an employee of National Grid in Syracuse, accused Cuomo of touching her chest during a conservation event in Oswego County in May 2017.

She came forward after hearing the governor’s remarks in March that he had never “touched anyone inappropriately,” according to a report released in the 168-page bombshell Aug. 3 by state Attorney General Letitia James.

“Cuomo not only touched my chest inappropriately, but whispered in my ear afterwards to make up a patently ridiculous excuse to cover up his behavior,” Limmiatis told The Post in a statement Monday in response to the DA dropping criminal charges.

“I immediately spoke to multiple people about what Cuomo had done to me, precisely because I was so disturbed and upset by it. At the same time, I did not report him publicly, because he was the Governor, and I was fearful of him,” she said.

The closing of the Oswego case follows the lead of similar investigations opened by the district attorney’s offices in NassauWestchester, Albany and Manhattan after James released the findings of her civil investigation that stated Cuomo broke “multiple state and federal laws.”

Oakes said “it would be impossible to establish all of the necessary elements to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt” — echoing Albany County DA David Soares’ reasoning for declining to prosecute the misdemeanor criminal charges filed by Brittany Commisso against Cuomo, who alleged the ex-pol grabbed her breasts during the work day in the Executive Mansion in Dec. 2020.

“After watching her prior testimony and talking with her, I found her to be reliable and reasonable, seemingly motivated only by an earnest desire to do the right thing, and she was plainly upset by her interaction with then-Governor Cuomo as she expressed immediately to friends and family,” said Oakes.

“Knowing that the then-Governor would use his bully pulpit to deny the allegations and perhaps attempt to discredit her, she nevertheless stepped forward to tell her truth during the Attorney General’s investigation. She has further made herself available to my office. I commend her bravery and respect her courage.”

Soares similarly found Commisso “cooperative and credible” but “after review of all the available evidence we have concluded that we cannot meet our burden at trial.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi reiterated his past criticisms of James’ report, blasting her political aspirations to run for governor as a motivation for the probe and included photos of the ex-Gov and Limmiatis interacting during the 2017 event.

“Enclosed you will find the photos of what the Oswego District Attorney has been ‘investigating’ for months — demonstrating what a farce this has been from the beginning,” said Azzopardi, who included two photos of Cuomo and Limmiatis.

“As now five DAs have verified, none of the accusations in Tish James’ fraud of a report have stood up to any level of real scrutiny. This 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.

Cuomo’s personal attorney Rita Glavin claimed the AG’s report “hid” those photos from the public, arguing they “indisputably showed that Governor Cuomo did not act improperly.”

James’ report does include a footnote confirming the Executive Chamber provided the photos and follow up interviews with investigators were conducted with Limmiatis after she testified under oath on June 9, 2021.

“Ms. Limmiatis identified the photographs as almost certainly being from the May 24, 2017 event, and explained that it was difficult for her to even review the photographs because they brought a flood of negative emotions about the incident, including shame,” reads the report description.

The report also adds in a footnote that investigators interviewed Attendee #1, “who recounted the events in a manner consistent not only with his declaration, but also with Ms. Limmiatis’ testimony.”

“We also interviewed the two additional attendees Ms. Limmiatis testified she had spoken to at the event. Both attendees corroborated Ms. Limmiatis’ testimony. However, unlike Attendee #1, these two attendees did not recall Ms. Limmiatis being outwardly upset at the event,” said the report.

“Not every violation of law results in a criminal prosecution. This decision does not mean Cuomo acted appropriately or lawfully towards Ms. Limmiatis or any of the other women who came forward, or that he didn’t cause them significant harm,” said Mariann Wang, attorney for Limmiatis in a statement.

A spokesperson for James defended the report, arguing Cuomo and Glavin “continue to conveniently omit the fact that the former governor himself asked the attorney general’s office to conduct this investigation and have made up or misstated information to fit their own narrative of events.”

“The findings of this independent 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 rep told The Post.

New York Post

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