By LARRY NEUMEISTER (Associated Press)
NEW YORK (AP) — A gynecologist who sexually abused vulnerable and unsuspecting patients for more than two decades at prestigious New York hospitals wept before being sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison by a federal judge who called his crimes unprecedented.
The sentence for Robert Hadden, 64, was a measure of vindication for hundreds of former patients who accused the doctor of sexually abusing them during exams, but saw an earlier prosecution end with a plea deal that saved him from jail.
Given his chance to speak Tuesday, Hadden stood with his hands folded in front of him to say there were “a lot of things I’d like to say” but that his lawyers had advised him to keep his statement brief.
“I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused,” Hadden said through sobs before dropping her head and sitting back down. Then he took off his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes.
In remarks over the past two days, US District Judge Richard M. Berman said the case was unlike any he had ever seen before and involved “outrageous, horrifying, beyond extraordinary and depraved sexual abuse.” He noted that at least 245 women Hadden treated said they were abused.
The federal trial involved a smaller number of victims. Hadden was found guilty of four counts of enticing women to cross state lines so he could sexually abuse them.
Nine victims testified at trial, describing how Hadden abused them during gynecological treatments, beginning in the late 1980s, at prominent hospitals, including Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Allegations of misconduct during exams first surfaced in 2012. Hadden was indicted on state charges in 2014 when the women, ages 19 and counting, kept turning up. But in 2016, the office of the Manhattan district attorney at the time, Cyrus Vance Jr., allowed Hadden to plead guilty to two low-level felonies and one misdemeanor in a deal that required him to give up his medical license but required no jail time and kept him off the state’s sex offender registry.
Some of the women who had gone to state prosecutors were outraged, but their stories didn’t start receiving public attention until the #MeToo movement began to gather steam in 2017.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained a grand jury indictment against Hadden in 2020, charges based on the fact that some patients in his New York offices had come to the city from the suburbs of other states. He was convicted in January.
Several dozen of Hadden’s accusers were in the courtroom for his sentencing. Among them was Liz Hall, who said she found Hadden’s apologetic expression hollow.
“That was not an apology. She has shown zero remorse or empathy. I think he is incapable,” she said.
Hall said she hoped the sentence would give other sexual assault victims the courage to speak up.
“This is the first time that the justice system did what it was supposed to do: take it seriously,” he said.
The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.
According to trial testimony, Hadden benefited from the prestige of the hospitals where he worked while caring for his patients in a private office decorated with photographs of his children while conversing with them about his personal life.
But once he isolated them after a chaperone or nurse left the treatment room, he stroked and probed them with bare-gloved fingers and sometimes orally.
The judge noted that many patients were particularly vulnerable because they were pregnant, had physical problems or had never been to another gynecologist, and he was confident that Hadden was conducting herself properly.
One of her accusers was Evelyn Yang, whose husband, Andrew Yang, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for president in 2020 and for mayor of New York City in 2022. She said Hadden sexually assaulted her years ago when she was seven months pregnant.
Some women abused by Hadden later lobbied for a change in state law that made it easier for sexual assault survivors to file lawsuits for allegations that are normally barred by the statute of limitations. The hospitals where Hadden worked have agreed to pay more than $236 million to settle civil lawsuits by more than 200 former patients.
Hadden’s lawyer, Deirdre von Dornum, asked the judge Tuesday to give her client credit for his efforts to reform himself and his devotion to his family.
A day earlier, when the judge announced that he planned to impose a 20-year sentence, she had complained that Berman was being too harsh.
“Here you have someone who has already lost everything, and you are effectively giving him a life sentence,” he said.
The attorney said her client was enduring harsh prison conditions in a federal lockup in Brooklyn, where inmates threaten him and extort money from his commissary.
Assistant US Attorney Jane Kim said Tuesday that Hadden had yet to accept responsibility for his crimes.
She said that he “still has the same sexual disorders that he had while carrying out his career of sexual abuse.”