Metro

Legal experts weigh in on Andrew Cuomo grope case

It’s no surprise that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was criminally charged with a sex-related rap, but actually nailing him on it will be tricky, legal experts told The Post on Friday.

Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, who used to lead the sex-crimes unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, described the damning report on Cuomo issued by the state attorney general in August “very thorough.”

“I’m not surprised criminal charges were filed, given the report,’’ she said, noting that Cuomo’s account of what happened between him and a younger female former underling was deemed “not credible” by James’ investigators.

Meanwhile, the report found accuser Brittany Commisso credible, making her claims a “prosecutable case,’’ Friedman-Agnifilo explained.

“It boils down to, ‘Do you believe her?’ ” the former top prosecutor said.

Commisso, 33, filed a report with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in August alleging that Cuomo, 63, groped her under her blouse.

A source noted that New York City’s subways have been plagued for years by forcible-touching cases — to the point where Cuomo, while still in office in January 2020, pushed to have serial perverts banned from the transit system.

“This is not unusual. It just doesn’t get a lot of press,” said the source. “We prosecute many, many cases of subway perverts.”

Brittany Commisso selfie with Andrew Cuomo after he allegedly groped her
AG Letitia James’ report found Brittany Commisso credible, making her claims a “prosecutable case.”

The sheriff’s office filed a misdemeanor criminal complaint against Cuomo on Thursday based on Commisso’s claims — which were part of a slew that had been made by women against the then-governor. Cuomo is required to appear in court for his first hearing involving Commisso’s case Nov. 17.

Top defense lawyer Peter Frankel told The Post that the disgraced ex-governor’s history at the helm of the state for a decade could complicate things.  

“Generally, any time you have a high-profile defendant, there are always extra challenges for the prosecution,’’ Frankel said.

“Sometimes jurors find it more difficult to convict individuals when they have positive, preconceived notions or feelings about them that are not identified during jury selection.

“The flip side is that in this case, I do believe that the government has a strong case supported by a very credible witness and other corroborating evidence,’’ Frankel said.

“Accordingly, I do think this is something he needs to take seriously.”

Kevin Kearon, a former Nassau County prosecutor on Long Island, said Cuomo’s stance as a public figure could actually hurt him, too.

“There might be pressure on a prosecutor not giving favorable treatment to a former governor,” Kearon said.

Albany City Court, where former Gov. Andrew Cuomo will appear in court on Nov. 17 to face criminal charges
Albany City Court, where former Gov. Andrew Cuomo will appear on Nov. 17 to face criminal charges.
Cindy Schultz for New York Post

But the lawyer noted that Cuomo would be a first-time offender if convicted, so that could help him negotiate a plea leading to a non-criminal infraction.

Julie Rendelman, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney who handled sex crimes as a prosecutor, agreed, saying that while she expects Cuomo to initially plead not guilty, it’s “always possible to get a resolution before trial.

“This is a first arrest for a forcible touching, and in normal circumstances, it is not unusual to see a plea to a non-criminal resolution, a violation that’s not a crime or an ACD, and  adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,’’ Rendelman told The Post.  

“That’s not to say this is going to happen in this case,’’ she said. “One could imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t admit to any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple updates the media on the criminal charges facing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a news conference on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021
Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple updates the media on the criminal charges facing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a news conference on Oct. 29, 2021.
Cindy Schultz for New York Post

“If he does not plead to something, the next step would be … to hand over all discovery, all police reports, everything.

“Look, it’s on the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and at the end of the day, it really is going to be about her word.”

Prominent defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, whose clients include the wife of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo’’ Guzman, asserted that sadly, “The chances of a conviction are very low.”

“These he said/she said sex cases are extremely difficult for a prosecutor to win, exacerbated by the likelihood of at least some Cuomo supporters on the jury,’’ Lichtman said.

“This is a political prosecution, period — and I detest Andrew Cuomo.”


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