Attorney urges jury to clear ex-NY doctor in sex abuse case

NEW YORK (AP) — A jury hearing evidence Monday against a former New York gynecologist accused of sexually abusing nearly 150 patients can “reject” and “convict” him, but they should remove him from federal indictments acquitted, to which he had enticed women to cross state lines to be abused because he did not know where they came from, his attorney said in an opening statement.

Defense attorney Deirdre Von Dornum told jurors early in the Manhattan trial of Robert Hadden, 64, that her client pleaded guilty to charges seven years ago and admitted to sexually abusing patients. She said he has not treated any patients in the past ten years.

“The allegations are horrifying and shocking,” she said, warning jurors not to encourage them to feel sorry for Hadden and telling them to listen carefully to the women who are testifying about the abuse and to hear what they are saying .

She said the “question is not whether inappropriate activity or sexual abuse took place”.

Instead, she said the jury should focus on the “specific, technical crime” he is charged with: whether he knowingly caused, persuaded or coerced patients to cross state lines to be sexually abused. The four women, highlighted by trial evidence, had traveled through New Jersey from New Jersey, Las Vegas and from Rockland County, New York, just north of the city.

Von Dornum said there was no evidence he knew in advance which patients to see on which days.

“Cancel, convict him,” the attorney urged, before adding, “Don’t convict him of a crime he didn’t commit.”

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Von Dornum addressed the jury after Assistant US Attorney Paul Monteleoni told them they would hear about Hadden sexually abusing the four women.

The indictment states that the abuse took place in doctors’ offices and hospitals in Manhattan while Hadden was a physician at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital. The two institutions have agreed to pay more than $165 million to 147 former patients who were abused by Hadden.

Monteleoni also described Hadden’s guilty plea in state court, saying he admitted during his pleading that his abuse was not an accident and had no valid medical purpose.

The Englewood, New Jersey resident was arrested on federal charges in 2020 after prosecutors accused him of sexually abusing young and unsuspecting patients for over two decades. He has been released on $1 million bail.

Prosecutors have described Hadden as a “predator in a white coat” and accused him of singled out young and unsuspecting victims, including a teenage girl he delivered at birth.

Monteleoni told the jury that several of Hadden’s victims would testify at the trial, along with nurses who said they saw Hadden inappropriately touching patients.

The prosecutor said the victims “have had experiences, in some cases, that they haven’t been able to talk about for years; Experiences that drew them.”

He added, “These victims would give anything that this didn’t happen.”

“Objection!” cried from Dornum.

“Overruled,” Judge Richard M. Berman replied.

Monteleoni was asking for the conviction of a doctor he said had attacked “patient after patient, year after year.”

Top photo: Robert Hadden stands in line at federal court in New York on Monday, January 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.

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