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Oswego County DA begins criminal investigation into Cuomo accusation

Gov. Andrew Cuomo shakes the hand of one young man as a group looks on
Gov. Andrew Cuomo meets with people at the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Oswego County in 2017. One of the 11 women to accuse Cuomo of inappropriate behavior told investigators that while at this event, Cuomo ran his fingers across her chest reading aloud the name of her company that was printed on her shirt.

Oswego County's District Attorney is opening a criminal investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The action comes shortly after the New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a report that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.

Among the 11 women whose stories were included in the Attorney General's report is Virginia Limmiatis. The Syracuse-area woman said while attending a conservation event in 2017, Cuomo ran his fingers across her chest reading aloud the name of her company that was printed on her shirt. The alleged encounter took place in Oswego County, which is why the county's District Attorney Greg Oakes has jurisdiction.

Oakes plans to meet with Limmiatis this week to further investigate her claim and see how she wants to proceed if at all.

"Those victims are in this situation or in this proceeding because somebody acted without their consent, somebody forced them to participate in an act they didn't want to be a part of, as a prosecutor I never want to force a victim to be engaged in a process they don't want to be part of because then I'm taking away that consent them from and that autonomy,” he said.

Oakes said he has also reached out to the Attorney General's office for all information they have on Limmiatis's accusation. He hopes to make a decision on whether to prosecute the case by Labor Day.

Although each case of sexual harassment outlined in the report can only be brought individually in the county where each act took place, Oakes said he and other DA’s looking into the allegations are coordinating their efforts and they may be able to use the other accusations against Cuomo in each case.

"A defendant might say, look this is an innocent action you’re attributing meaning to it that’s not there, we might be able to point to acts in other jurisdictions to say no this is how we know you meant to do this and what the meaning behind it was,” Oakes said. “So, the question becomes for the governor was he doing this for his sexual gratification, potentially we could use these other acts."

Cuomo has denied all allegations that he sexually harassed or otherwise inappropriately touched anyone.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.