While there has been much discussion of impeaching the governor for sexual harassment, or civil lawsuits against him for it, the new allegation raises the question of whether the governor could be indicted for criminal sexual assault.
The relevant New York statute here for sexual assault, N.Y. Penal Law § 130.52, states:
“A person is guilty of forcible touching when such person intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, … forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire.”
A lot of what allegedly occurred between the governor and the aide is unknown. While she claims there was a touching, or grouping of an intimate part, there’s no information at this time to know whether it was done to degrade the person or to gratify a sexual desire. Even if there were, however, the point is moot.
That’s because indictments are only for felonies. The crime of forcible touching is a misdemeanor. So, while the governor couldn’t be indicted, he could conceivably be charged with a misdemeanor count of sexual assault.
Federal Charges in Nursing Home Cases
A much more likely scenario is a federal indictment – but not for sexual assault – but rather for nursing home deaths related to Covid-19. In March 2020, as the coronavirus raged through New York, Governor Cuomo ordered nursing homes to admit medically-stable Covid-19 patients from overburdened hospitals. The result of this was that many nursing homes across the state had at least ten coronavirus deaths in their facilities.
Investigations followed, and one of Governor Cuomo’s aides conceded that the state paused the release of nursing home Covid-19 fatality date because it feared the Department of Justice would use it against them.
This is a problem for the governor. Such action could be construed as either (1) making a false statement to a federal investigator or (2) obstruction of justice. Both are felonies under the federal criminal code.
So, while the governor likely won’t be indicted for sexual harassment, he should have a much greater concern about federal indictments. There is much outrage at both the federal and state level of governments over all the deaths in nursing homes, and it is not going away any time soon.
New York Criminal Defense Attorneys
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