Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in May amid allegations of domestic abuse from four women, will not face criminal charges, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said Thursday.
Singas was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May after an article in The New Yorker detailed the accounts of women who claimed Schneiderman became physically violent with them when they were dating, particularly when he had been drinking.
Singas said in a statement that she believed the women who came forward but that legal impediments, including statutes of limitations, prevented her office from bringing charges against Schneiderman.
“Following an exhaustive review, evaluation of the facts, the law, and applicable statutes of limitations, I have concluded our investigation into the allegations of physical abuse allegedly committed by former New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman without criminal charges,” Singas said.
Schneiderman said in a statement responding to Singas’ decision not to bring charges that he spent time in a rehab facility following his resignation and that he acknowledges his conduct with the women was wrong.
“I recognize that District Attorney Singas’ decision not to prosecute does not mean I have done nothing wrong. I accept full responsibility for my conduct in my relationships with my accusers, and for the impact it had on them,” Schneiderman said. “After spending time in a rehab facility, I am committed to a lifelong path of recovery and making amends to those I have harmed. I apologize for any and all pain that I have caused, and I apologize to the people of the State of New York for disappointing them after they put their trust in me.”
The decision concludes a six-month-long investigation into the conduct of Schneiderman, who resigned just three hours after the magazine article was published in May. The article included interviews and details from three women who claimed Schneiderman had physically abused them during their relationship. A fourth women claimed Schneiderman slapped her when she rejected his advances.
One of the women, Michelle Manning Barish, said in the article that at one point Schneiderman slapped her hard, with an open hand, causing significant pain to her ear. The pain caused her to visit a doctor, who removed dry blood from her ear. She also claimed Schneiderman threatened to kill her if she ended their relationship.
Another woman, Tanya Selvaratnam, said in the article that Schneiderman made the same threat to her. She described him as “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” figure and claimed that aside from slapping her in bed, he also choked her and spat at her. Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, also said he called her his “brown slave” at times.
Two other women claimed anonymously in the article that Schneiderman was also physically violent with them. One said that Schneiderman, again, slapped her in bed without asking her for her consent. Another claimed that Schneiderman slapped her after she rebuffed his advances.
The physical actions were followed by verbal abuse, according to the women. Selvaratnam, for example, said Schneiderman once told her to get plastic surgery to remove scars she had from an operation related to cancer.
The problems were compounded by Schneiderman’s problems with alcohol, the women claimed. They said he would often be drunk when they were at his home, and sometimes had accidents caused by his drinking. Selvaratnam, for example, said in January 2017, he called her from a hospital emergency room because he fell and cut himself after a night of drinking.
The allegations were extensive, but Singas said the state’s current laws prevented her office from bringing criminal charges against Schneiderman. She sent a legislative proposal to state lawmakers on Thursday to change the state’s penal law in a way that may have allowed her to prosecute him over the allegations.
The current law, according to Singas, only allows charges if the offender’s intent when hitting someone during sex is to “alarm, harass, or annoy” the victim. The victim also has to provide proof that they suffered “substantial pain” or a physical injury, Singas said.
Her proposal would change the law to allow charges when someone slaps, strikes, shoves, or kicks someone during sex without consent, regardless of their intent. It would be a misdemeanor that would carry up to one year in jail. The crime would have a two-year statute of limitations, which would have allowed Schneiderman to be charged in at least one of the cases.
“This legislation fills a gap in the law that is essential to properly sanction sexually motivated violence that may leave the victims with deep emotional wounds, even if they do not sustain physical injuries as defined under New York penal law,” Singas said. “This new misdemeanor-level offense will afford law enforcement an additional tool to protect victims of domestic abuse, and I encourage the legislature to pass this bill next session.”
Singas was appointed as special prosecutor in the case because Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. had, at the time, been under review by Schneiderman’s office for his handling of possible criminal prosecution into former film mogul Harvey Weinstein.