Dozens of accusers emerge after Andrew Yang’s wife reveals sexual assault

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A model in her late 20s, she found herself casually chatting about her family and her career with the OB-GYN at the prestigious Columbia University hospital system, which showed her photos of his wife and of his daughters. She could catch him for dates around his irregular schedule. She received free contraception from her.

"I felt comfortable asking him any questions I had about my health," said Heckman, now 36, in an interview with CNN. "He was so open. "

But from time to time, according to his interview and court documents, he surprised her with an inappropriate question or comment, asking her about the quality of her sex life or saying, "Your boyfriend is so lucky to have you . "

She says comments also came up during exams: "It would be crazy to lose you. " " You are perfection. "

Heckman said he went from inappropriate to unacceptable in 2012.As usual, Heckman was the last patient of the day. Hadden told the nurse that she could go home; she left reluctantly, looking troubled, said Heckman.

Now it was just Hadden and Heckman, whose feet were in the stirrups and the legs were draped. Hadden dipped her head out of sight and licked it, she said.

"At first it was gloves, and all that," said Heckman. "And then he passed with no gloves, a tongue and a beard. ... and I backed away. "

She said that she abruptly left the examination table, got dressed, left the office and never came back.

Heckman said she would find out later that she was not alone.

Three years later, in 2015, she came across a story about how Hadden was charged in a sexual abuse case involving six of his patients. Their allegations reflected hers: Hadden had caressed and sexually assaulted them during the exams, after the nurses had left the room. The following year, he pleaded guilty to two counts: third degree criminal sex and forced touching.

It looked like the case was closed.

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But last January, Evelyn Yang, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, appeared in an exclusive interview with CNN, saying that she too had been sexually abused by Hadden. Suddenly, the terms of the plea agreement sparked another outrage: Hadden had renounced his medical license, but had received no prison, probation or community service sentence.

A torrent of critics lambasted the Manhattan Attorney’s office for what they believe to be a light sentence.

Since Yang's interview, nearly 40 new Hadden accusers have presented their allegations to lawyer Anthony DiPietro, who filed a civil lawsuit against Hadden and Columbia University in 2019. DiPietro says he plans to add them to the civil lawsuit, which would bring the total number of complainants to around 70 years. Two of the complainants were minors - aged 15 and 16 - at the time of the ill-treatment, he said.

Survivors of sexual assault and their supporters held a demonstration in January, saying the Hadden case proved that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had failed to protect the victims. The New York City Council women's caucus called for Vance's resignation, saying the Hadden plea deal fits a model of leniency by the DA toward wealthy and white men.

Vance turned down multiple CNN interview requests. After CNN informed the office of Evelyn Yang's public allegations last month, Vance said in a statement, "Because a conviction is never a guaranteed outcome in a criminal trial, our main concern was to keep it responsible and making sure he could never do it again - - that's why we insisted on a conviction for crime and the final surrender of his medical license.

"Although we maintain our legal analysis and the resulting decision on this difficult case, we regret that this resolution caused pain to the survivors," said Vance.

His office encouraged all survivors to call the DA sex crimes unit.

Heckman is among dozens of new accusers who want Hadden to be prosecuted again; she says she plans to present her case directly to the DA.

"I want justice done," said Heckman. "He raped, assaulted all these women and nothing was done and it makes me furious. "

Hadden, 61, denied the allegations of assault in court documents, except for the two counts he pleaded guilty to. CNN contacted Hadden and the lawyer who represented him in the civil case; these efforts have failed.

"I think about myself ... I don't want him to touch me. "

One of the new accusers is Jessica Chambers, now a substitute primary teacher in Wyoming.

Chambers was scrolling down her phone last month when she stumbled upon Yang's story. Seeing a photo of Hadden in court, she says, her stomach became knotted.

"I was like,‘ Holy sh * t, "she said.

Although she had seen nurse practitioners at Planned Parenthood, Chambers had never had a gynecological examination when she entered Hadden's office in 2004. She was a 23-year-old student at City College in New York.

His first impression: "He was very present. With some doctors, they just get you in and out. (But) he was just very there with you. … He was very nice. "

Chambers said two things initially seemed odd to him during the exam, for which a chaperone was present: Hadden was talkative, and the procedure seemed to go on forever.

"He had his fingers inside of me - I couldn't see if he was wearing gloves," she said. "And he had a long talk with me while he had his fingers inside of me. … I remember wanting to get out of this position. "

Chambers said they shared how she had broken up with her boyfriend. She remembers that Hadden asked her if she was able to enjoy "and how did I get to enjoy," she said.

"I think it's very weird," she said. But "he is a doctor, we are in Colombia - it is clear that what is going on here must be normal and natural. "

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At one point, she said - while sitting on the exam table and after the chaperone left - that he grabbed her leg.

"There was an opening," she said. "Maybe I asked a question, and the question was the license to show off physically. "

"It stuck me a bit," she said, adding that she felt uncomfortable, but "I didn't know if it was just me who was naive and I didn't want to do anything weird. "

Hadden, she said, began to explain how arousal occurs while touching her vagina for a long time - this time with ungloved hands.

"I mean now, looking back, I'm like, he was trying to wake me up by talking to me - under the guise of education," said Chambers. "I think to myself, enough is enough - I want his hands not to touch me ... And it lasted - it seemed like an extended period of time. "

Dr. David Shalowitz, who chairs the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that allegations like those made in the Hadden case were deeply worrying.

"There are light lines," he told CNN. “Ungloved rectal or genital exams are never acceptable. … Any review that needs to be done must be with consent and a clear explanation of why it is done. Patients have the right to refuse any procedure or examination, and patients should feel empowered to say no. "

Chambers said she would like to see Hadden put on trial.

"When you have so many people coming forward, I feel like you should be held accountable again," she said. "And in fact, being held accountable - like going to jail. "

DiPietro has stated that all of its clients want the DA to reopen a criminal case against Hadden. He added that he plans to submit documents to demand that Vance's office do so.

"He has something that sounds [more] like an orchestrated retreat than real punishment for a serial sexual predator, "said DiPietro.

"It's like he knew ... that he was protected. "

Columbia has denied allegations in the civil lawsuit that the university had done nothing to stop "serial sexual abuse" "on countless occasions" in court records.

In 2012 Hadden was arrested in her office after a patient told police that he had licked her vagina during an exam. The arrest was quashed and Hadden returned to work at the medical clinic for more than a month. During this time, he allegedly assaulted Yang and at least one other patient.

"Can you imagine the audacity of a man who continues to do this after being arrested? Said Yang. "It's like he knew he wouldn't be impacted. He was protected. He wouldn't be fired. "

Columbia University responded to CNN's request for comment with a statement on Thursday, stating, "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our patients. We are committed to treating each patient with respect and providing care according to the highest professional standards.

"We condemn sexual misconduct in any form and we sincerely apologize to the women whose trust Robert Hadden has abused and to their families. "

Another accuser, who asked not to be named for reasons of confidentiality, said that she was pregnant with her older child when she went to see Hadden around 2002. She had recently had a failed pregnancy when she saw a doctor in another hospital and didn't want to take risks. Thinking that the prestigious New York-Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Medical Center was a safe bet, she went there and found Hadden on the recommendation.

Hadden, she said, asked him to come see him about once a month and had her vaginal and breast exams at almost every visit.

"The breast exam was an over-massage," she said.

She remembers asking him strange questions, especially if she liked sex. In the middle of her pregnancy, the accuser said that she called a friend who works as an obstetrics and gynecologist to ask her if frequent breast and vaginal exams were normal.

"Absolutely not," she remembers the friend. "It's weird. "

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But she kept coming in, she said, because she didn't want to start over with another doctor, knowing from experience the fragility of a pregnancy and wishing the best for her baby.

"You feel the health of the child is in his hands," she said.

She said that she stopped seeing Hadden shortly after giving birth.

She also learned of other allegations only after seeing Yang's interview last January, more than 16 years later.

"I felt so validated," she told CNN, adding that Hadden's conviction "did not fit the crime."

"It wasn't even a slap on the wrist," she said.

Hadden’s 2016 plea deal "inexplicable"

Following Hadden's plea agreement in 2016, the doctor also registered as the lowest level sex offender. This defied the recommendation of the New York State Council of Sex Offender Examiners to classify Hadden as a Level 2 - or moderate - offender, which would require his lifelong registration in an online sex offender registry.

Elie Honig, a former federal and state attorney and CNN legal analyst, called the 2016 deal "inexplicable."

"I see no legitimate reason why you would give this guy a guilty plea that wouldn't put him behind bars for a day," he said. " It is unfair. "

The ability to try Hadden on new criminal charges depends on the situation of each accuser. A provision in the Hadden Plea Agreement states that the DA cannot prosecute "similar crimes" against the doctor whose office was aware of it on or before February 22, 2016 - the day the agreement was made.

Honig called the clause "unusual", adding that it prevents women who testified or called the DA before that date from continuing with the charges even if new evidence emerges.

"The prosecutor's office basically said that we're only going to prosecute for a few of you," said Honig. "The rest of you, sorry, we give it away. "

There is also uncertainty regarding the limitation period issue for new accusers who have come forward: although New York has recently extended the time limit for victims to present certain allegations of sex crimes, it is unclear how this would affect the news charges laid against Hadden.

Heckman said she first spoke to her husband, media manager James Heckman, about the incident during their honeymoon in Italy in the summer of 2015.

That night, at the urgent request of her husband, they searched for Hadden's name on Google; this is how they learned about the criminal case against the doctor.

Heckman joined DiPietro's civil lawsuit as Jane Doe but decided to reveal his full name after seeing the interview with Yang.

"I think the more victims come out and show their faces -" Hey, I'm a real person, I'm not just Jane Doe, "you know, maybe DA will listen to him," said Heckman. "It's just like, we are real people, we are not just a piece of paper. "

Dana Bash, Bridget Nolan and Ashley Fantz of CNN contributed to this report.

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