Ex-gynecologist accused of sexually abusing dozens of female patients faces new charge

Federal prosecutors added a new count against a former gynecologist accused of sexually abusing patients, days after saying that investigators found child pornography on a laptop seized in the case.

Robert Hadden, a former Columbia University doctor, is now facing seven counts in connection with alleged abuse of six adult patients and one minor. Prosecutors also allege in the indictment that Hadden assaulted “dozens of female patients, including multiple minors” between 1993 and 2012, though Hadden is not facing charges for those additional allegations. 

Prosecutors claim Hadden, for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity, “enticed and induced” individuals to travel interstate by “causing victims to return to appointments with him to be further sexually abused.” 

Each of the seven federal counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Hadden, who agreed in 2016 to plead guilty to two state charges of criminal sex acts in the third degree and forcible touching, has also been accused in civil lawsuits of sexually abusing dozens of patients.

The new count, which was filed July 14, alleges Hadden abused another former patient during appointments in 2008 and 2009. 

Hadden entered not guilty pleas to the original counts in the case, and Hadden’s attorney, public defender Deirdre von Dornum, told CBS News in an email that he will also plead not guilty to the new count during an arraignment Tuesday. 

In a letter to the court on July 8, the government said FBI investigators found child pornography on an Apple iBook laptop seized during its investigation. A U.S. Attorney said during a July 12 court hearing that the computer was seized in August 2020 from the home of Hadden’s deceased father. The iBook is among dozens of electronic devices seized in the case.

Von Dornum said during that hearing that she has been asking prosecutors to clarify if any charges are planned in connection with the pornography. 

“We have been asking (the prosecution) whether they plan to make use of that, whether they have any evidence that Mr. Hadden had anything to do with that, et cetera. They have so far been noncommittal, but said we should plan to see them use it in their case,” von Dornum said. “I’ve been pressing on this issue because I don’t see how it’s admissible in the case in chief, and obviously it would change the trial greatly.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment on the case. 

The court has given prosecutors a September 3 deadline to tell Hadden’s defense team whether it plans to use material obtained from electronic devices at trial. 

Von Dornum said in a July 8 letter to the court that if the government seeks to use material found on the iBook “in any way” against Hadden, the defense will “hire a forensic expert to examine the laptop and evaluate whether there is any evidence to connect Mr. Hadden — as opposed to his father or someone else — to that material.”

Von Dornum also indicated the defense may challenge whether the consent given to investigators to search Hadden’s father’s house “was provided by someone with actual or apparent authority to give such consent.” She said in the letter that the house was in probate proceedings at the time.

Hadden and Columbia University were sued in 2018 by 17 former patients who claimed a “massive coverup” of allegations of sexual abuse by the doctor. The lawsuit has since ballooned. Anthony DiPietro, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said Monday that 195 former patients have now signed on. 

An attorney for Hadden in the civil suit could not immediately be reached for comment, but he has previously denied all allegations other than those for which he entered guilty pleas in 2016. 

Columbia University did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday, but on May 26 said in an email, “Nothing is more important to Columbia than the safety of our patients, and we condemn sexual misconduct in any form. We commend all those who have called Robert Hadden to account for his abhorrent actions and deeply regret the harm he caused to women in his care, and to their families.”

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