Thursday 15 November 2018

US government lawyer and #MeToo supporter resigns over abuse claims

Eric Schneiderman has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement

Eric Schneiderman denies the allegations (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Eric Schneiderman denies the allegations (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

By Deepti Hajela, Associated Press

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned after four women accused him of physical violence during intimate encounters.

It was a stunning fall for a Democrat who portrayed himself as a champion of women and had pledged to use his office to hold others accountable for abusing their power.

In accounts published in The New Yorker on Monday, the women described being violently slapped and choked, verbally abused and threatened by Mr Schneiderman. Some also described him as a heavy drinker.

The abuse often happened during what were supposed to be romantic encounters, but the women said the violence was not consensual.

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Eric Schneiderman resigned after high-profile New York Democrats urged him to go (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Mr Schneiderman, 63, issued a statement implying that his conduct was either welcomed by the women, or was not as they described.

“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 non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross,” he said.

But after fellow Democrats in New York, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, called for his resignation, he capitulated quickly.

“In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me,” he said.

“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.”

He said he would resign at the close of business on Tuesday.

Two women who spoke to The New Yorker on the record, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, both said the physical abuse escalated over time.

Ms Barish wrote on Twitter after the story was published: “After the most difficult month of my life-I spoke up. For my daughter and for all women. I could not remain silent and encourage other women to be brave for me. I could not…”

She said she was involved with Mr Schneiderman from mid-2013 until the end of 2014, and he became violent a few weeks after they began dating.

She said she confided in friends, including novelist Salman Rushdie.

Ms Selvaratnam said she was involved with him from the summer of 2016 until autumn 2017.

Mr Schneiderman has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement.

He filed a lawsuit in February against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

Mr Schneiderman said the company broke New York law by failing to protect employees from “pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination”.

The women accusing him said seeing him speak out on these issues was part of what prompted them to come forward.

Mr Schneiderman, a former state senator, became attorney general in 2010 and had been running for re-election this year.

He has been a critic of President Donald Trump, and has taken part in 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.

On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr showcased one of Mr Schneiderman’s tweets from last year saying that he would remind President Trump that no one was above the law, with Mr Trump Jr adding: “You were saying???”

Press Association

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