Oswego DA Drops Final Criminal Sexual Harassment Case Against Cuomo

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The Oswego County District Attorney’s office dropped its investigation into Andrew Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment, the latest and last case in the state to be shut down against the disgraced former governor of New York.

District Attorney Gregory Oakes decided not to press charges against Cuomo for allegedly groping Virginia Limmiatis’ chest at a 2017 event, citing an insufficient legal basis, the New York Post first reported. The decision comes a month after both the Albany and Westchester County district attorney’s offices chose not to pursue criminal complaints against Cuomo for allegedly groping an aide and inappropriately kissing two women on the cheek. 

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Oakes was the final DA of five to drop charges against the ex-governor, but Oakes said in a statement that his decision does not exonerate Cuomo.

“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-Gov. Andrew Cuomo based upon the allegations of unwanted physical contact made by Virginia Limmiatis,” Oakes said in a statement.

Limmiatis accused Cuomo of touching her chest during a May 2017 conservation event in Oswego County while she was working for an energy company, and came forward when Cuomo denied touching anyone inappropriately in March 2021, according to New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ report, released in August 2021, that found Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. 

“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 the statement. “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.”

Other district attorneys had similar reasons for dropping their cases — like in Westchester, where the local DA found Cuomo’s alleged acts did not rise to the level of criminal conduct under New York State law. Oakes criticized the state’s sex offense statutes, saying they do not adequately protect victims.

“This investigation makes clear what victims, their advocates, police and prosecutors have said for years: The current sex offense statutes in New York fail to properly hold offenders accountable and fail to adequately protect victims,” he said. “If justice is to ever be obtained for the countless victims who are sexually abused and harassed in this state each day, the law must be revised and reformed to reflect the lived experiences of victims.”

The DAs’ decisions are unlikely to limit any civil liability by Cuomo — which he may face thanks to an investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice into the sexual harassment allegations outlined in James’ report. The department is looking into if Cuomo’s actions violated the Civil Rights Act, though it’s unclear how the investigation has progressed, CNBC reported.

Cuomo has repeatedly denied touching people inappropriately and a spokesperson for Cuomo called the investigation “a farce” from the beginning.

“As now five DAs have verified, none of the accusations in [Letitia] James’ fraud of a report have stood up to any level of real scrutiny,” Cuomo’s spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, said in a statement. “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.”

The five cases were dropped after the New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee found Cuomo had engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment in a report released in November 2021. 

The assembly report also found that Cuomo used state resources on his book about his leadership, which raked in about $5.2 million during the pandemic and was not completely transparent in reporting the number of people who died of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.