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Lawyers claim “collusion” in case of ex-doctor charged with sexual abuse

Attorneys for a former gynecologist accused of sexually abusing dozens of patients have asked a federal judge to dismiss the case or move it out of Manhattan. Robert Hadden’s lawyers cited his previous guilty plea agreement on state charges, as well as years of media coverage —including half a dozen CBS News articles— in making their requests.

Hadden, a former Columbia University doctor, is facing seven counts in connection with alleged abuse of six adult patients and one minor. Prosecutors also allege in the indictment that Hadden assaulted “dozens of female patients, including multiple minors” between 1993 and 2012, though Hadden is not facing charges for those additional allegations.

Hadden has entered not guilty pleas to all federal charges.

Prosecutors claim Hadden, for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity, “enticed and induced” individuals to travel interstate by “causing victims to return to appointments with him to be further sexually abused.”

Hadden entered a guilty plea in 2016 to two state charges of criminal sex acts in the third degree and forcible touching. His plea agreement included a stipulation that he would not “be prosecuted for any similar crimes which are known to the District Attorney’s Office.”

Hadden’s attorneys, public defenders Deirdre von Dornum and Michael Weil, said in the August 2 filing that the lawyer who represented him in that case failed to advise him that his plea agreement wouldn’t apply to federal charges.

They accused federal prosecutors of appearing to “be acting as a tool of the Manhattan DA” to bring charges in a case previously settled locally, and said the two offices engaged in “something closer to illicit collusion.”

In February 2020, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced it was investigating new allegations against Hadden. That investigation has not led to charges, and Hadden’s attorneys say the announcement was “little more than a not-too-subtle signal to” federal prosecutors, who “responded by launching the investigation which resulted in the instant indictment that the [Manhattan District Attorney’s Office] was itself unable to bring.”

Spokespeople for the Manhattan District Attorney and the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office declined requests for comment on the accusation.

In asking for a change of venue, Hadden’s attorneys noted that his 2016 plea deal, which did not include prison, had become a major issue in the ongoing election campaign to succeed current Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

Hadden’s attorneys said that advocacy and “heartbreaking” media coverage of former patients, such as Marissa Hoechstetter, who is among at least 195 women suing Hadden and Columbia University, could hamper an effort to seat an impartial jury.

“For example, Marissa Hoechstetter in statements to CBS News, expressed fears that her health may be impaired by her anxiety about going to a medical office. She also has detailed the harm to her mental health she believes she suffered as a result of what she says Mr. Hadden did to her,” prosecutors wrote.

Hoechstetter said in an email to CBS News Wednesday, “I will not be bullied into silence by Hadden or his attorneys.”

“Nowhere in the law does it say that I can’t speak truthfully about my experience. In the end, silence benefits no one. We are here because people like Hadden thrive on silence. Sexual violence festers in silence. This recent motion is an attempt to distract from his abhorrent (and illegal!) behavior and failure to take responsibility for his actions,” Hoechstetter said.

Hoechstetter has for years advocated for reforms to the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes unit, and Hadden’s attorneys noted she “personally endorsed Alvin Bragg,” the candidate who won the Democratic primary and is heavily favored to be the next district attorney.

They highlighted a July 17, 2019 tweet by Bragg in which he wrote, “The Hadden case is a travesty of justice.” The attorneys claim Bragg “staked his victory on the idea that Mr. Hadden was a serial abuser, a notion that appealed to a majority of Manhattan voters.”

A spokesperson for Bragg declined to comment.

Prosecutors have not yet responded to the motions seeking dismissal or change of venue.


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