Sex abuse trial of former Columbia University gynecologist underway

ByAARON KATERSKY ABC News WABC logo
Monday, January 9, 2023
Sex abuse trial of former NYC gynecologist underway
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The trial of a former Columbia University gynecologist accused of sexually abusing patients, including a minor, two of whom were pregnant. CeFaan Kim has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The trial began Monday for a former Columbia University gynecologist accused of sexually abusing patients, including a minor, two of whom were pregnant, and Evelyn Yang, wife of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Dr. Robert Hadden, 64, pleaded not guilty in September 2020 to six counts of enticing and inducing victims to his medical offices and subjecting them to unlawful sexual abuse.

Federal prosecutors alleged Hadden also assaulted "dozens of female patients, including multiple minors" between 1993 and 2012.

Federal prosecutor Paul Monteleone said Hadden "abused his position of power to assault patient after patient, year after year." Monteleone said the abuse occurred while Hadden was "pretending" to medically examine his patients' "most private parts."

During the trial on Monday, prosecutors presented testimony of Accuser Number 1, who says after about a decade of being his patient, in a 2010 visit he touched her in a way that was, "intended to be sexual in nature."

And unlike previous visits, she said this time he didn't wear gloves.

"It felt like sexual assault," she said.

She returned for a checkup one year later because she wanted to believe this was the man she and her sister and family trusted. But it was on this visit she says he licked her while performing an exam.

She says it was "horrifying" and she just kept thinking "How do I get the hell out of here?"

As she was sobbing on the witness stand, she said she felt disgusted and dirty.

"He was a sexual predator who has just sexually assaulted me," she said.

Unlike other OBGYNs, she says Hadden stayed in the exam room while she was undressed without a nurse present and he draped a cloth over her legs so she couldn't see what he was doing.

Evelyn Yang says she too was abused by Hadden. She is not testifying in the trial and told Eyewitness News she didn't appear Monday because it's too hard being in the same room with him.

"And now they get to choose and it's a way to sort of regain a sense of control over what happened to you, which can be very healing," Yang said.

More than 200 former patients settled lawsuits against Columbia University with agreements of more than $230 million.

In a case now receiving scrutiny, Hadden pleaded guilty in state court seven years ago to abusing two women as part of a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, so defense attorney Deirdre van Dornum asked "Why are we here?"

Hadden is charged in federal court with inducing four women into crossing state lines for the purposes of sexually abusing them. The four women highlighted by trial evidence had traveled from New Jersey, Las Vegas and from Rockland County, New York, just north of the city, through New Jersey.

The defense called it a "technical crime" and insisted to the jury Hadden is not guilty of it.

The defense is not attacking the credibility of the accusers or disputing that abuse occurred.

"The question is not whether inappropriate activity or sexual abuse happened," van Dornum said. "I have to ask you to put aside your feelings about the sex abuse Mr. Hadden has already pleaded guilty to."

Based on the line of questioning, it appears the defense will argue that Hadden was mentally unstable and in decline.

Each of the federal charges against Hadden carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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