Should Gov. Cuomo's sexual harassment findings be criminally prosecuted?
- Andrew Cuomo is the Democratic Governor of New York. He assumed office on January 1, 2011. His current term ends on January 1, 2023.
- Laticia James, the Attorney General for New York state, released a report on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, and found that Gov. Cuomo “groped, kissed, or made suggestive comments to 11 women in violation of the law.” The 168-page report revealed a “toxic work environment” that included 179 interviewees.
- After the report went public, Cuomo denied the findings saying he was “mischaracterized and misinterpreted.” On the other hand, many Democratic heads called on Cuomo to step down, including President Biden who stuck by his position from March.
- Earlier in the year, on March 3, 2021, Cuomo was accused of “inappropriately touching and offensive remarks” by three women. He responded, “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” and “it was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”
- Cuomo’s approval rating dropped significantly after the sexual harassment and coronavirus scandals, starting at 71 percent in April 2020 and falling to 38 percent by March 2021.
In a case like this, it's important to remember that, like everyone, Cuomo is human, and being human means being imperfect. The pressure to make amends for possible mistakes and to have him punished is much higher because of his status in our society. However, the criminal charges he'd receive are much harsher than civil prosecution, and criminal prosecution is being pushed as the result of him being in the public eye. Governor Cuomo said himself that he'd lived his 'entire adult life in public view,' and a sexual harasser is not the kind of person he is. Before labeling Cuomo as a criminal, there needs to be more investigation done into what actually happened to determine if Cuomo's actions were truly criminal.
Prosecution professionals, and not media critics, will need to locate and prioritize only legal wrongdoings, if any, and not just go on hearsay alone. These allegations against Cuomo have been talked about for months, and still, Albany County district attorney Soares has not taken the case—he has merely said Cuomo is under investigation. This clearly shows there is no winnable case here, and it's a waste of time and taxpayer money to pursue this any longer.
Removing emotions from the situation makes it clear that criminal prosecution is a bad idea. If Cuomo wins this case, there will be pressure placed on the eleven women who came out against him. The spotlight, the harassment from the press, the hate from Cuomo's supporters—all of this will not only ruin their lives but will discourage other women from coming forward about similar issues. This is not a risk worth taking, given the fact that sexual assault is already underreported.
A months-long report conducted by NY AG Leticia James determined that Governor Cuomo made inappropriate sexual advances or comments toward at least 11 former employees. The 165-page report was released on August 3rd after Cuomo was originally accused of sexual harassment in March of 2021. This has prompted Democrat leaders, including President Joe Biden, to urge the governor to step down, with NYC mayor de Blasio advocating for criminal proceedings.
According to the report, workers previously have reported Cuomo's acts of misconduct to leaders in the governor's administration. However, these investigations were consistently dismissed or suspended. The report revealed these women, a part of the Cuomo staff, felt intimidated to come forward with their experiences due to the hostile work environment. This was proven to be true after Cuomo's aide released disparaging information relating to his first accuser.
Ms. James and the state collected data from 179 witnesses, surveying over 70,000 emails and text messages throughout the investigation. Sworn testimony from witnesses claims that Cuomo made unwanted physical and verbal advances to his female staffers on numerous occasions. If true, this clearly violates sexual harassment laws and is possibly prosecutable.
Although Cuomo never professed any guilt, he did admit to making people in his workplace uncomfortable. These are certainly not positive leadership qualities, but any inappropriate remarks made in the workplace by Cuomo aside, some of his actions detailed in the report (like groping his female staffers and security detail), are indeed sexual assault and can be criminally charged. While Cuomo's apology paints the dilemma as a series of innocent mistakes, the consistency of the witness testimony insists this is not the case, and it would be good for local authorities to pursue prosecution.