New York attorney prosecuting Harvey Weinstein resigns amid sexual assault allegations

Eric Schneiderman denies accusations from four women published in US media

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Tuesday 08 May 2018 04:03 BST
The lawyer has been a long-time critic of President Trump and is known for speaking out for women’s rights
The lawyer has been a long-time critic of President Trump and is known for speaking out for women’s rights (Getty)

New York’s attorney general has resigned after four women accused him of sexual assault.

Eric Schneiderman issued a statement on Monday evening denying his accusers’ claims and said that “while these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time”.

Regarding the allegations of the women, he said in a separate statement: “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.” At least three of his accusers had been in a romantic relationship of some kind with Mr Schneiderman, The New Yorker magazine reported.

The 63-year-old lawyer has become known for taking on high profile roles as an advocate for women’s issues and an antagonist to the policies of President Donald Trump, as well as supporting the #MeToo movement and prosecuting now-infamous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In light of the allegations, which involved claims of physical violence leading to medical problems, Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, said in a statement: “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer. I will be asking an appropriate New York district attorney(s) to commence an immediate investigation, and proceed as the facts merits.”

It was just in February that Mr Schneiderman filed a civil rights suit against Weinstein after more than 60 women – including actresses Ashley Judd, Lupita Nyong’o, Salma Hayek, Annabella Sciorra – accused him of varying forms of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Rose McGowan: 'everybody knew' in Hollywood of Harvey Weinstein allegations

Weinstein has denied all the allegations of wrongdoing. The attorney general said at a news conference: “We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here”.

It was only last week that Mr Schneiderman began investigating how previous complaints against the movie mogul may have been mishandled by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, and the New York City Police Department for possibly favouring Weinstein instead of allowing victims to be taken seriously.

On 1 May, Mr Schneiderman had been given an award by the National Institute for Reproductive Health charity for his commitment to furthering women’s rights in reproductive health and access to abortion services. “If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal,” he said at an awards luncheon.

Mr Schneiderman, who won a state Senate seat representing a Manhattan district in 1998, became attorney general in 2010 and had been running for re-election this year. Under state constitution, a vacancy in the office is filled by the state legislature. There has been no word yet as to who his replacement could be.

The outspoken lawyer also has been a long-time critic of Mr Trump and has been part of several efforts to push back against some of his actions in the White House, like the rescinding of protection for immigrants brought to the US illegally as children or the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme for so-called Dreamers. Last month, he urged state lawmakers to close a loophole that he said could be used to fight state charges by anyone who has received a presidential pardon from Mr Trump for similar federal charges.

On Twitter, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, offered pointed commentary. He showcased one of Mr Schneiderman’s tweets from last year stating that he would remind Mr Trump that no one was above the law, with Trump Jr adding: “You were saying???”

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