Cuomo won’t be charged for touching trooper at racetrack

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Andrew Cuomo

FILE – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at New York’s Yankee Stadium, Monday, July 26, 2021. New York’s ethics commission has more work to do if it wants to seize the millions of dollars former Gov. Cuomo earned writing a book about the COVID-19 pandemic, the state attorney general’s office said in a letter Thursday, Dec. 16. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won’t face criminal charges after a female state trooper said she felt “completely violated” by his unwanted touching at an event at Belmont Park in September 2019, a Long Island prosecutor said Thursday.

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce Smith said in a statement that an investigation found the allegations against Cuomo “credible, deeply troubling but not criminal under New York law.”

Smith opened the investigation after details of the encounter appeared in Attorney General Letitia James’ August report on sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo. The report chronicled accusations from 11 women and led to Cuomo’s resignation from office,though he has attacked the findings as biased and inaccurate.

Cuomo’s spokesperson Rich Azzopardi, in a statement released Thursday afternoon, said Cuomo didn’t recall touching the trooper.

Azzopardi said it was common for the former governor to acknowledge a trooper who would hold the door open for him. Azzopardi didn’t respond to a question about whether Cuomo would acknowledge troopers by touching them.

“As he has said many times, Gov. Cuomo did not remember touching the trooper, but said that it was a common custom for him to acknowledge the presence of a trooper — male or female — holding a door as he walked past them,” Azzopardi said. “This was only meant to be an acknowledgment of their presence and nothing more.”

James’ report found that Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women in violation of federal and state civil rights law. But she said pursuing potential criminal penalties would be up to prosecutors.

According to the report, the trooper said Cuomo ran the palm of his left hand across her abdomen, to her belly button and then to her right hip, where she kept her gun, while she held a door open for him as he left an event at Belmont Park on Sept. 23, 2019.

Cuomo was at the state-owned racetrack, home to the last leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, to break ground on a new arena for the NHL’s New York Islanders. The arena, adjacent to the track’s main grandstand and paddock, opened last month.

The trooper, a member of Cuomo’s security detail, told James’ investigators that Cuomo’s conduct at the event made her feel “completely violated because to me, like that’s between my chest and my privates.”

James’ report said that although the trooper was upset by Cuomo’s unwanted touching, she did not feel she could do anything about it.

“I’m a trooper, newly assigned to the travel team. Do I want to make waves? No,” she said, according to the report. “I’ve heard horror stories about people getting kicked off the detail or transferred over like little things. … I had no plans to report it.”

The trooper told James’ investigators that what happened at Belmont Park was just one of many instances of Cuomo’s “flirtatious” and “creepy” behavior toward her.

One time, in an elevator, he traced his finger from her neck to her back, she said. Another time, he asked to kiss her in the driveway outside his Mount Kisco home and proceeded to peck her cheek, she said.

“I remember just freezing, being — in the back of my head, I’m like, oh, how do I say no politely?” she told investigators.

The Nassau County investigation was limited to the encounter at Belmont Park, which is on the county’s border with New York City. Authorities in other parts of the state have been looking into other allegations in James’ report.

In October, the Albany County sheriff’s office filed a misdemeanor groping complaint against Cuomo, but a week later the district attorney asked a judge for more time to evaluate the evidence.

The D.A. said that the sheriff’s one-page criminal complaint, based on allegations from a woman who said Cuomo slid his hand up her blouse and grabbed her breast at the governor’s mansion in late 2020, was “potentially defective.”

At the prosecutor’s request, a court delayed Cuomo’s scheduled arraignment until Jan. 7.

Following the release of James’ report, the U.S. Department of Justicelaunched a civil inquiry in August into sexual harassment claims made against Cuomo. The exact nature of the inquiry and its current status is unclear.

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Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo and Marina Villeneuve contributed to this report. Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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