Legal Analysis of Potentially Criminal Allegations Made Against New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo

News outlets across New York State have reported extensively on the allegations of sexual harassment made against Governor Andrew Cuomo. When a sixth accuser came forward with misconduct accusations against Governor Cuomo, the reporting shifted from alleged sexual harassment to alleged assault.

WGRZ 2 On Your Side’s ongoing coverage of allegations against the governor continued with a “Town Hall” segment hosted by anchors Michael Wooten and Kate Welshofer. Attorney Barry Covert was interviewed for the segment to provide legal analysis on the latest developments in the accusations made against Governor Andrew Cuomo.

WGRZ’s Town Hall segment focused on how the accusations made by Governor Cuomo’s sixth accuser differ from previous accusations. Attorney Barry Covert was asked to address several legal topics in this matter, including: why the latest accusation may rise to the level of a criminal offense; if law enforcement need the accuser to cooperate in an investigation; and what impact the sixth accuser’s allegations have on the New York State Attorney General’s current investigation.

Continue reading for comments made by Barry Covert and click the video found below to watch WGRZ’s full Town Hall segment.

What is meant by “Referred to Police” and “Investigating a Crime?”

Initial reports on the circumstances surrounding the sixth individual who accused New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo of misconduct include phrases such as “referred to police” and “investigating a crime.” WGRZ’s Kate Welshofer asked Barry Covert to explain what is meant by these phrases. Mr. Covert stated: “So the governor’s office, due to their own internal guidelines, was required to report any allegations of misconduct that could rise to the level of a crime. In this case, the accuser allegedly claimed that he went underneath her blouse and quote ‘fondled her.’ And that could certainly rise to the level of a crime, so it was reported to police.  The police are not coming out and saying that there was a crime that was committed; they shouldn’t do that before they fully investigate. But, nothing could be worse for the governor at this point. To now be up to your sixth accuser, and the sixth accuser is very recent in time as to the allegations, and it could be criminal, it’s the most serious of the six accusers’ allegations.”

Is it necessary for the alleged victim in this matter to cooperate with the investigation?

Reporter Michael Wooten cited a recent report in The New York Times that indicates the accuser in this matter has not filed an official complaint and that this was referred to the police by somebody else. Barry Covert was asked if it matters who referred the alleged incident to law enforcement and if a cooperating victim is needed? Barry Covert explained: “Well, you don’t need one to begin the investigation. But it will be almost impossible to bring criminal charges, if they are warranted, without having the accuser, unless there was some other witness to the events cooperate with the police. This is not an alleged crime that could be proven circumstantially without the accuser coming forward in most instances. Unless it occurred in a room full of people, they witnessed it, even if she doesn’t want to come forward someone else could specifically testify as to what occurred. In this case, you don’t have that. So, it would be very difficult to bring any charges criminally based upon these accusations. But obviously, he’s fighting this on many different fronts. Impeachment proceedings, request for him to resign, what power is he going to have now as a governor. So there’s a lot of questions, a lot of issues that are at play here.  But criminally, without her, the accuser, cooperating, traditionally there will be no criminal charges even if they are warranted.”

How does the allegations from a sixth accuser impact the Attorney General’s investigation?

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is overseeing an investigation regarding previous sexual harassment allegations made against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Barry Covert was asked how new allegations and proceedings may impact the Attorney General’s investigation and if it make it all more complicated? Mr. Covert replied: “No, it does not make her investigation more complicated and it makes it really narrow as the focus now. Because, when you had the first allegations, there was the ability to at least try to claim that maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe I didn’t understand what I was saying was offensive to her. And then you have more people, more women coming out with similar accusations, but again none of them specifically rising to what could potentially be a crime. But the AG’s office already was given the ability to investigate those allegations. Now you have the most serious allegation, now you have one that alleged claims that he reached underneath her blouse, fondled her, which mean traditionally that would be a sexual assault charge if indeed she’s going to come forward and assist. So the Attorney General’s investigation is not being made more difficult. It’s really being made much easier now, because now any claims that ‘well I didn’t intend’ in relation to the first accuser or second accuser, ‘I didn’t intend to make them uncomfortable,’ I didn’t intend. Well now when you have this many accusers and now the sixth one having the most serious allegations that could rise to criminal charges, I think that the mandate that is given to the Attorney General’s office is very clear.”