Evelyn Yang, whose appearance on CNN last month to share her story of alleged sex assault at the hands of a former Columbia University gynecologist spurred a cascade of new accusers against the same doctor, applauded the announcement by the Manhattan district attorney’s office that it plans to investigate the new claims, but said the DA and university must be held to account as well.
Yang, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate and CNN contributor Andrew Yang, told CNN on Friday that the announcement to investigate the new claims against Robert Hadden “doesn’t erase how they grossly mishandled all the initial cases, including mine.”
“While this is a good start, it’s not addressing the root of the problem,” Yang said. “We need to be asking why there are over 70 women and counting who have now come forward about being assaulted by this same doctor. The DA’s office should be investigating the hospital for allowing this doctor to prey on so many patients over decades, when they had indication from multiple sources that he was acting inappropriately.”
Marissa Hoechstetter, another alleged victim of Hadden’s, has repeatedly called on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to resign. She was unmoved by the DA’s announcement referring to it as “image rehab ahead of the (Harvey) Weinstein verdict.”
“Vance and his office simply do not have the public trust or credibility to conduct an investigation, and we call on Governor (Andrew) Cuomo and Attorney General (Letitia) James to immediately appoint a special prosecutor in his place,” she said Friday in a statement.
“The District Attorney has had eight years to serve justice in the Hadden case, but only now seems interested because of continued national scrutiny and a contested DA race,” Hoechstetter added.
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. He pleaded guilty to two counts: criminal sexual act in the third degree and forcible touching. Under the terms of the plea deal, he surrendered his medical license and served no prison time.
Nearly a week after CNN reported that the new allegations against Hadden were mounting, Vance’s office released a statement Thursday evening announcing its decision to start a new probe.
“We admire the courage of the survivors who have recently shared their stories. Their voices will be heard and the abuse they suffered will be thoroughly investigated,” the DA’s office said.
The 61-year-old Hadden has denied the assault allegations in the civil case, aside from the two counts to which he pleaded guilty. CNN reached out to Hadden and his criminal attorney, Isabelle A. Kirshner. She responded saying she no longer represents him.
Some accusers have lambasted Vance for the plea deal with Hadden, saying it fits a pattern of lenience towards white men of power and privilege on the part of the DA, who also handled cases against Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein.
“This is great news. Unfortunately also a pattern by DA Vance: give unduly soft treatment to powerful offenders, get called out by the media for failing to do justice, then double back and try fix it later,” CNN Legal Analyst Elie Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor, tweeted Friday.
Since Yang’s interview, some 40 new Hadden accusers have brought their allegations to attorney Anthony DiPietro, who first filed a civil suit against Hadden and Columbia University in 2013. DiPietro says he plans to file a new suit on behalf of the new accusers, which would bring the total number of plaintiffs to about 70.
Two of the plaintiffs were minors – ages 15 and 16 – at the time of the alleged abuse, he said.
One of the new accusers, Jessica Chambers, said the DA’s investigation is a “small move in the right direction,” but she echoed Hoechstetter’s call for Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor.
Chambers added that any investigation should examine whether Columbia University had taken adequate steps to prevent the abuse or whether it had “covered up for him or protected him.”
“Other patients should be informed about all of this,” she said. “I almost didn’t see Evelyn’s interview, but thankfully I did – and I along with 40 other women came forward immediately.”
Chambers believes the number of victims is much larger.
“All of those patients have a right to know this is all happening and that they weren’t alone, that they didn’t invite Hadden’s actions,” she said.
Responding to news of the DA’s announcement, Columbia issued a statement saying, “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our patients. We condemn sexual misconduct in any form and will cooperate fully with any request for information from the District Attorney’s office related to Robert Hadden.”
Columbia has denied in legal filings the allegations that the university did nothing to stop the “serial sexual abuse” on “countless occasions.”
This story has been updated with comments from a new accuser.
CNN’s Dana Bash contributed to this report.