An attorney representing patients of a former gynecologist accused of sexual abuse says 175 women have now signed on to a lawsuit against Robert Hadden and his former employer, Columbia University.
In the lawsuit, first filed in 2018 by 17 women, Hadden is accused of sexual abuses dating back to the early 1990s, including licking and digitally penetrating his patients' vaginas without gloves, and fondling their breasts and anuses. The women involved in the case said they were assaulted while undergoing treatment ranging from basic pregnancy and postpartum care to HPV exams. At least two of the plaintiffs said they were assaulted when they were teenagers.
Anthony DiPietro, an attorney for the former patients, told CBS News that the case has grown tenfold. The number of potential plaintiffs ballooned in size after Evelyn Yang — whose husband Andrew sought the Democratic nomination for president and is currently running for New York City mayor — revealed in January 2020 that she was among Hadden's former patients.
"There's 175 that have come forward, and meanwhile, that number seems to increase every few days," DiPietro said.
Columbia University said in a statement to CBS News that "Nothing is more important to Columbia than the safety of our patients, and we condemn sexual misconduct in any form."
"We commend the women who have called Robert Hadden to account for his abhorrent actions and deeply regret the harm he caused to patients who were in his care, and to their families," Columbia University said.
The Columbia Spectator first reported that the number of women suing has grown to include 175 women.
Hadden was charged in 2014 in New York state court on allegations of sexual assault involving six women. In 2016, he agreed to plead guilty to two individual counts of a criminal sex act in the third degree and forcible touching. The no jail plea deal downgraded his sex-offender status to the lowest level — meaning he is not listed in New York State's online sex offender registry.
In September 2020, federal prosecutors unveiled new charges in six cases in which patients traveled between states for their appointments with him, but prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Hadden assaulted "dozens of female patients, including multiple minors" between 1993 and 2012. Each of the six counts of enticing and inducing individuals to travel interstate to engage in illegal sexual activity carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Hadden entered a not guilty plea in the case. An attorney representing Hadden in his federal court case did not reply to a request for comment.
Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at the time that "Hadden acted as a predator in a white coat. "
"He allegedly used the cover of conducting medical examinations to engage in sexual abuse that he passed off as normal and medically necessary, when it was neither normal nor necessary – it was criminal," Strauss said.
The Manhattan District Attorney's officein September that it is pursuing a criminal investigation into Columbia University's handling of incidents involving Hadden. That investigation is ongoing, according to a spokesperson for the office.