Eric Schneiderman. Photo: Tim Roske

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday evening after allegations surfaced that he had assaulted four women with whom he had romantic relationships or encounters.

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the state of New York. In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “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. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.” 

The resignation statement came about an hour after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for the attorney general to leave office. The allegations were posted in a story in The New Yorker late Monday afternoon and reaction was swift.

“The New Yorker has published an article on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which reports multiple women making serious allegations of assault,” Cuomo said in a statement shortly after it was published. “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer.”

“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general, and for the good of the office, he should resign,” the governor said.

Earlier Monday evening, before issuing the statement announcing his resignation, Schneiderman acknowledged taking part in the encounters with the women but said the conduct was consensual.

“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” he said “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

In the New Yorker story, the women denied that the assaults were part of any sexual play. Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, who spoke on the record to the magazine, said they had been choked and hit repeatedly by Schneiderman. Manning Barish said she was fully dressed when Schneiderman struck her. She said the abuse was worse when he was drinking.

The women, the other two of whom spoke to the magazine anonymously, said they decided to come forward in part because Schneiderman portrayed himself as a champion of women and had been lauded for his pursuit of sexual harassment allegations against other men. One of the anonymous women was described by The New Yorker as “an attorney who has held prominent positions in the New York legal community.”

Manning Barish told The New Yorker that, “You can’t be a champion of women when you are hitting them and choking them in bed and saying, ‘You’re a fucking whore.’”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, also called on Schneiderman to resign before he did so. ”The violent actions described by multiple women in this story are abhorrent,” she said. “Based on this extensive and serious reporting, I do not believe that Eric Schneiderman should continue to serve as attorney general. There should be a full and immediate investigation into these credible allegations.”