ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The governor of New York has been silent since his Tuesday address where he championed having his fair day in court. Where Cuomo had previously urged New Yorkers to hold off on opinions of him until after the results of Attorney General Letitia James’s sexual harassment probe, he now claims her conclusion that he did harass at least 11 current and former state employees is false.
“The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” Cuomo said Tuesday.
However, despite the civil findings of the report, it did not come with a criminal recommendation.
“She was basically saying they did their due diligence, and here’s the report, and now we are going to let the chips fall as they will,” says legal expert Derrick Hogan, a partner at Tully Rinckey Attorneys and Counselors at Law.
Picking up those chips now are multiple district attorneys, including Albany County’s David Soares, who say they’re starting criminal investigations of their own. Hogan is a labor and employment law expert. He says the biggest challenge for the DA’s will be both proving if the governor forcibly touched someone, and even trickier — did he have sexual intentions if he did?
“Now that’s very hard to prove if you’re not speaking to the governor and he’s certainly not going to come out and say that he did or didn’t do that or he might deny it,” Hogan explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Hogan says forcible touching is a misdemeanor under New York law and a conviction could come with up to a year jail time. He says in contrast, the AG report becomes a much stronger tool if the women decide to try the civil case route, where they would be seeking monetary damages rather than a criminal case that comes with corresponding government punishments. He says a civil case is likely to progress faster as well based on the evidentiary requirements.
“[In a criminal case] each of those elements needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas when you get to the civil side of the matter, the preponderance of the evidence, if you will, is a little less,” Hogan explains.
He says Cuomo and the entire state could be liable as the employers responsible for training and sexual harassment prevention under laws that Cuomo himself passed in 2019. The AG report does cite state and federal violations, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against discrimination. Hogan says anyone in Cuomo’s office could feel the heat too if they participated in workplace retaliation.
“Just as a person could say they were discriminated against based on their age, their gender, their race, they could also say they were discriminated against based on retaliation when they made a protected disclosure, and then it doesn’t have to be the governor. It could be somebody else,” he says.
He further adds anyone watching Governor Cuomo’s events unfold should take away a lesson on taking sexual harassment claims seriously.
“Any and every complaint is serious, and the fact of the matter is you’re not at home and you’re not at the bar with your friends. You’re at a place of business,” Hogan says.
“What a person needs to be cognizant of is that once a person comes forward and says, hey you made me uncomfortable, it needs to stop there and you can’t act that way anymore. If you have the attitude ‘I didn’t mean it that way’ or ‘you’re interpreting that wrong’, well you don’t know how that made another person feel, and that is enough to get you in trouble,” he goes on to say.