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Hadden abuse accusers call for New York district attorney’s resignation

Evan Simko-Bednarski

A group of women who allege they were abused by disgraced OB-GYN Robert Hadden called for the resignation of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Thursday.

At an early-morning news conference outside New York’s City Hall, Hadden accusers Marissa Hoechstetter and Dayna Solomon stood with supporters and called for the ouster of Manhattan’s top prosecutor, saying he was overly lenient with the man who allegedly abused them.

“When I reported the crimes against me to the DA in 2015, I was one of more than 20 women who’d come forward about the same man,” Hoechstetter said Thursday, “Rather than respect me and pursue justice, the DA chose to offer Hadden a plea some have called the deal of the century.”

Hadden, formerly a doctor in Columbia University’s hospital system, was facing nine charges relating to sexual abuse allegations when he cut a deal with prosecutors in Vance’s office in 2016.

Hadden was accused of groping, penetrating and licking multiple women. Hadden ultimately pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual abuse. Under the terms of the plea deal, he surrendered his medical license and served no prison time.

“Cyrus Vance got all the information he needed to respond appropriately for the victims,” Solomon said Thursday. “Instead he did everything to ensure that Robert Hadden avoided jail time.”

Hadden’s case has received renewed attention since Evelyn Yang told CNN last week she was assaulted by the doctor in 2012. CNN also reported that Hadden was arrested in his office in 2012 prior to Yang’s alleged assault, after another patient told police Hadden had licked her vagina during an exam.

That arrest was voided, however, and Hadden was allowed to return to work.

“Vance allowed that to happen,” Hoechstetter said of the voided arrest. “It’s on him, and he must resign immediately.”

Vance’s office has defended its conduct in the Hadden case as a way to ensure Hadden no longer saw patients.

“Because a conviction is never a guaranteed outcome in a criminal trial, our primary concern was holding him accountable and making sure he could never do this again — which is why we insisted on a felony conviction and permanent surrender of his medical license,” Vance said in a statement to CNN.

“While we stand by our legal analysis and resulting disposition of this difficult case, we regret that this resolution has caused survivors pain.”

Hadden has denied the assault allegations in court documents, aside from the two counts — criminal sexual act in the third degree and forcible touching — to which he pleaded guilty.

Hoechstetter is the only named plaintiff among 21 women suing Hadden, Columbia University and its affiliates.

Anthony DiPietro, an attorney representing 47 women, including Hoechstetter and Solomon, who allege abuse by Hadden, said Thursday that Vance’s office lied to two of his clients about whether they could bring criminal charges against the doctor.

“We know that at least two women that came forward were lied to by the district attorney’s office and told that they were outside of the criminal statute of limitations,” DiPietro said. “We can compare the medical records of when they were abused with the date that the final plea was entered. The statute of limitations was still intact for those patients, but Vance made the decision to not prosecute Hadden for those assaults.”

Hoechstetter said she was one of those two women.

Asked Thursday to respond to that allegation, Vance’s office declined to comment.

New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, co-chair of the city’s Women’s Caucus, supported the call for Vance’s ouster.

“Under Cy Vance’s leadership, the Manhattan DA’s office, and specifically their sex crimes unit and special victims bureau, failed to protect and fight for survivors against rich white and powerful men who committed countless sexual assaults,” she said. “It is time that Cy Vance resign.”

The Hadden case is not the first time the Manhattan district attorney’s office has been criticized for its handling of sexual abuse cases.

In 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo charged the state’s attorney general with reviewing Vance’s office following the DA’s decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein in a 2015 sex abuse case. That review was put on hold several months later.

The attorney general’s office, which is currently involved in its own lawsuit against Weinstein, confirmed to CNN on Thursday the review into Vance’s office remains on hold.

Weinstein is now being tried on charges of rape in New York City and has pleaded not guilty.

Vance is up for re-election in 2021.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled accuser Dayna Solomon’s first name.

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