A criminal complaint charging former New York governor Andrew Cuomo with a misdemeanour sex offence has been filed in a court in Albany, the state capital, the first prosecution stemming from a misconduct scandal that led to his resignation.
The filing on Thursday from the Albany County Sheriff's Office, accusing Cuomo of groping a woman under her blouse, was first confirmed by a spokesman for the New York state courts, Lucian Chalfen, in an emailed statement referring to the alleged offence as a "sex crime".
Representatives for Cuomo, 63, who stepped down two months ago under mounting legal pressures and calls for his ouster from prominent fellow Democrats, including President Joe Biden, were not immediately available for comment.
The district attorney for Albany County, David Soares, issued a statement suggesting that the sheriff's office had acted independently of local prosecutors.
"Like the rest of the public, we were surprised to learn today that a criminal complaint was filed in Albany City Court by the Albany County Sheriff's Office against Andrew Cuomo," Soares stated, adding that his office would comment no further.
A copy of the complaint posted online by WNBC-TV in New York said Cuomo engaged in the misdemeanour offence of "forcible touching" on December 7, 2020, at the governor's Executive Mansion by placing "his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim ... and onto her intimate body part".
The complaint went on to say Cuomo fondled the woman's breast "for purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires," but the name of the woman had been redacted.
The week prior to his resignation, former gubernatorial staffer Brittany Commisso filed a criminal report with the Albany County Sheriff's Office alleging that the then-governor of groped her breast at the Executive Mansion in Albany late last year.
The New York Post said Cuomo was expected to be arrested next week and charged with a misdemeanour in the alleged groping of a former aide.
It said the anticipated charge resulted from a probe by the district attorney, citing a source briefed on the matter.
Cuomo resigned as governor in August after more than 10 years in office, following a probe detailed in a 168-page report that found he had sexually harassed 11 women.
New York Attorney-General Letitia James said a five-month independent investigation concluded that Cuomo had engaged in conduct that violated multiple federal and state laws.
Her office did not pursue criminal charges, but local prosecutors in several counties, including Albany, said after the report's release that they were looking into the matter and requested evidence from the independent inquiry.
"The criminal charges brought today against Mr. Cuomo for forcible touching further validate the findings in our report," James said in a statement on Thursday.
The former governor has long denied wrongdoing, though he has said he accepted "full responsibility" for what he called ill-conceived attempts to be affectionate or humorous.
"In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realise the extent to which the line has been redrawn," he said in announcing his resignation.
Cuomo's exit capped a months-long downfall, derailing the political career of a man once considered a possible US presidential contender, and whose daily briefings early in the COVID-19 pandemic raised his national profile.
His resignation spared him from possible removal from office through impeachment proceedings in the state legislature, which appeared likely even though that body is dominated by fellow Democrats.
The independent investigation found Cuomo groped, kissed or made improperly suggestive comments to women, including current and former government workers, and retaliated against at least one woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
Australian Associated Press