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Columbia University agrees to $71 million settlement with dozens of former patients of OBGYN Robert Hadden

Columbia University announced a settlement Wednesday with dozens of women who say their former gynecologist, Robert Hadden, abused them while he was their doctor. The $71.5 million settlement was reached with 79 women.

Claims by dozens of other patients have not been settled. 

In 2014, New York State prosecutors filed criminal charges against Hadden for 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 plea deal included no jail time and a downgrade in 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 also assaulted "dozens of female patients, including multiple minors" between 1993 and 2012. Hadden has not been charged in connection with those other patients.

Federal prosecutors added a new count in July. Each of the seven counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors said that Hadden assaulted victims over the course of nearly two decades "under the guise of conducting purported gynecological and obstetric examinations." 

Hadden entered a not guilty plea to all charges in the case.

The allegations against Hadden received renewed attention last year after Evelyn Yang, whose husband Andrew sought the Democratic nomination for president, said in an interview with CNN that Hadden had assaulted her.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office said in September 2020 that it is pursuing a criminal investigation into Columbia University's handling of incidents involving Hadden. That investigation, which is ongoing according to a spokesperson for the district attorney, has not led to charges.

"Every patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to be safe and secure. We are deeply sorry that Hadden violated these fundamental obligations," said Columbia University Irving Medical Center senior vice president and COO Donna Lynne. "The settlement announced today reflects our determination to support the admirable women who have come forward and called attention to Hadden's abhorrent behavior."

Two of Hadden's former patients who allege they were abused by Hadden criticized Columbia in a statement Wednesday. 

"We are appalled at the audacity of Columbia University's statement today. To use this settlement with survivors to applaud themselves is reprehensible," said Yang and Marissa Hoechstetter, who are part of a separate suit against Columbia.

Yang and Hoechstetter stressed that they support those who agreed to the settlement but that they would continue to pursue their case. 

"To be clear, we are not part of this settlement. We intend to fully expose the institutional coverup that resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of women being sexually abused by Robert Hadden over his 20+ year tenure at Columbia University," their statement continued.

Adam Slater, an attorney for the women in Wednesday's settlement, said in a phone call with CBS News that his clients include women who were abused as far back as the 1990s. "This resolution is about closure for my clients. They really are ready to move on with their lives and this helps put this horrific experience behind them," Slater said.

An attorney for Hadden could not immediately be reached.

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