Disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's legal team has called for an investigation into Sheriff Craig Apple Sr - Albany County's cigar-loving top cop who in October charged the Democrat with a sex crime without consulting the district attorney.
Apple, 54, a Democrat with a progressive record, has come under sharp scrutiny by both Cuomo's camp, which has accused him of colluding with state Attorney General Letitia James to bolster her gubernatorial ambitions, and also by Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who has alleged that the popular sheriff had engaged in 'troubling' investigative methods and concealed potentially 'exculpatory' evidence.
Apple, dismissively dubbed the 'cowboy sheriff' by Cuomo and his cohorts,' has denied any wrongdoing, even after the ex-governor and his aides have dredged up a 10-year-old recording of the sheriff saying, 'I know how to manipulate the law and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.'
Apple also bristled at what he described as an 'unfair' claim that he had 'boxed in' Soares by filing the complaint against Cuomo without the prosecutor's input in an apparent bid to force his hand.
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Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple Sr (left) has found himself under scrutiny after filing a sex crime charge against former New York Gov Andrew Cuomo (right)
Cuomo, who resigned in August amid a sex scandal, was accused by his former aide Brittany Commisso (left) of groping her breast last year
Speaking to The New York Times, Apple said of Soares: 'Listen, he’s the district attorney, he can do whatever he needs to do on this case. I mean, it’s totally up to him. It’s his prerogative.'
In late October, Sheriff Apple made national headlines when he filed a complaint charging Cuomo, 64, with committing a misdemeanor sex crime involving his former aide, 33-year-old Brittany Commisso.
The complaint accused Cuomo of forcible touching by putting his hand under Commisso's shirt and groping her breast in the Executive Mansion on December 7, 2020.
Cuomo was due in court on November 17, but DA Soares asked a judge for more time to evaluates the evidence, saying the complaint filed by Apple was 'potentially defective.'
Soares, who has said he was caught off guard by the filing, said in a letter to Judge Holly Trexler that his office had been investigating the matter for several months when Apple 'unilaterally and inexplicably' filed the complaint against Cuomo.
Cuomo's camp has accused Apple of colluding with state AG Letitia James to bolster her gubernatorial ambitions. The two posed for a pictured together in early October
Soares alleged that the complaint failed to include a sworn statement by Commisso.
The district attorney said the sheriff’s complaint, as filed, only included part of the woman’s testimony, but left other parts out, including sections that could possibly be helpful to Cuomo’s defense.
Apple pushed back against Soares' claims, insisting that his investigator who filed the paperwork submitted all the necessary documents in full.
Apple did acknowledge that the court papers had been processed more quickly than intended, before he had gotten a chance to consult with the district attorney. But he said he was confident in the strength of the case.
Forcible touching is a misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to a year in jail, though many cases for first-time offenders are resolved with probation or a shorter jail sentence.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied touching anyone inappropriately.
Albany County DA David Soares has alleged that the sheriff engaged in 'troubling' investigative methods and concealed potentially 'exculpatory' evidence in the Cuomo case
He resigned from office in August after an investigation by New York Attorney General James concluded that Cuomo has sexually harassed 11 women.
Just days after Soares asked the judge to delay Cuomo's arraignment by 60 days until January 7, Cuomo's attorney, Rita Glavin, demanded that an independent prosecutor be appointed to look into allegations that Sheriff Apple illegally disclosed grand jury information to the media in August.
Cuomo's legal team also has raised questions about the timing of the charge becoming public knowledge, which took place one day before James announced her run for governor of New York, suggesting that the sheriff and the attorney general were in cahoots. No evidence of coordination between Apple and James has emerged.
The sheriff previously said that his office did consult AG James' report into Cuomo as part of their investigation, but said he had not spoken to her directly about the charge.
Apple has been with the Albany County Sheriff's Office since 1987 and was first elected to the top job in 2011, even despite the release of the compromising audio recording on which he bragged about his ability to 'manipulate' the law.
Apple, dubbed 'Teflon sheriff' by his fellow Democrats, has denied any wrongdoing in his handling of the Cuomo investigation
Over the last decade, Apple has weathered many a political storm - including an investigation into torture claims at the county jail stemming from the practice of keeping young inmates in solitary confinement - and has been re-elected unopposed twice, earning him the nickname 'the Teflon sheriff.'
During his time at the helm of the Albany County Sheriff's Office, Apple has spearhead initiatives that have proven popular among local voters, including turning an underused part of the county jail into a homeless shelter, offering inmates battling opioid addiction access to drug treatment, and providing COVID-19 tests and vaccines.
Apple earned points with Democrats in 2018, when he spoke of the plight of the 300 undocumented immigrants who were caught crossing the Mexico-US border and brought to his jail, and oversaw efforts to give them access to translators.
A year later, Apple championed a homeless cook who was jailed for immigration violations, and went so far as to appeal to then-President Donald Trump on Twitter, asking him to release the jailed man.
Given his track record and popularity, Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Albany County, laughed off the suggestion that Apple went after Cuomo to shore up his support ahead of next year's election.
During a press conference in late October announcing the charge against Cuomo, Apple said: 'I don't have a goal. My goal isn't to throw Andrew Cuomo in jail.
'At the end of the day, we have a victim, and our job is to take the complaint investigated and move forward. And that's what we've done.'