The acting district attorney of Nassau County described a state trooper’s allegations that Mr. Cuomo had run his hand across her stomach to be “credible, deeply troubling, but not criminal under New York law.” Prosecutors in Westchester had looked at instances in which two women, including the trooper, said Mr. Cuomo had given them unwanted kisses on the cheek.
Prosecutors in Albany would have had to clear a relatively high bar had they proceeded with the criminal charge, which required them to prove not only that Mr. Cuomo had touched Ms. Commisso, but that he did so with the intention of satisfying his own sexual desire, or of degrading her.
Because cases like these rarely have irrefutable physical evidence, much of the burden would likely have fallen on Ms. Commisso’s testimony. Of the roughly 1,400 cases like Mr. Cuomo’s brought in a typical year across the state, almost four in 10 are dismissed or dropped, state criminal statistics show.
That is in part because the standard used in criminal court — proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has taken place — is the highest in the legal system, according to Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former Manhattan prosecutor and a law professor at Northwestern University who has written about sexual assault cases.
“Jurors bring with them a set of biases, misconceptions, and inaccurate understandings of abuse when they hear a case involving sexual violence,” she said. “Prosecutors often decide, rightly or wrongly, that the type of cross-examination that an accuser will face will make it unlikely for a juror to convict.”
The Downfall of Andrew Cuomo
The path to resignation. After drawing national praise for his leadership in the early days of the pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was confronted with several scandals that eventually led to his resignation on Aug. 10, 2021. Here is what to know about his political demise:
Sexual harassment accusations. Multiple women accused Mr. Cuomo of harassment, including groping and lewd remarks. An independent inquiry by the New York State attorney general corroborated the accounts. The investigation also found that he retaliated against at least one woman who made her complaints public.
That can occur, she said, even in cases where a woman is deemed to be credible, a phenomenon Ms. Tuerkheimer described as a “credibility discount.”
“They might say, we believe her, but we weren’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.
The women who have accused Mr. Cuomo could still file lawsuits in civil court, where the threshold for liability is lower than in a criminal setting.