New York Attorney General Schneiderman resigns over assault allegations

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had planned to run for re-election in November. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he will step down as the state's highest law enforcement official, hours after a report in which four women accused him of physical violence.

The New Yorker posted an article on Monday (May 7) outlining allegations of abuse.

Two of the women, Ms Michelle Manning Barish and Ms Tanya Selvaratnam, spoke on the record to the magazine.

They didn't report their allegations to the police at the time, but both eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard and choked, according to the New Yorker.

"It's been my great honour and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the State of New York," Mr Schneiderman said in a statement late on Monday.

"In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me. 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."

His resignation will be effective at the close of business on Tuesday.

Mr Schneiderman, New York attorney general since 2011, had planned to run for re-election in November.

The allegations against him are especially shocking because they follow years of legislative and legal advocacy for women's rights, especially against physical and sexual abuse.

Among the laws he helped pass during his 12 years in the New York state senate was a penalty for strangulation.

The Democrat has also been a courtroom foe of President Donald Trump, earning national recognition for playing a central role in resisting the current administration's policies.

His legal filings on behalf of New York against the travel ban, rescission of protections for children of undocumented immigrants, anti-LGBT measures and women's access to contraception were accompanied by scathing remarks against Mr Trump's agenda.

When given the opportunity to slam Mr Trump's treatment of women, Mr Schneiderman didn't hold back.

"If a woman can't control her own body, she isn't truly free," he said in a statement on Nov 2, 2017, while joining a lawsuit to protect women's access to birth control.

"With men in Washington doing whatever they can to undermine women's freedom and equality, I'll do everything in my power to fight back and protect New Yorkers."

Mr Schneiderman earlier denied assaulting anyone.

"In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity," he said in a statement in response to a request for comment on the article. "I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross."

After the article was posted online, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for Mr Schneiderman to step down.

Mr Cuomo added that he would ask an appropriate district attorney to immediately open an investigation into the claims "and proceed as the facts merit".

"No one is above the law, including New York's top legal officer," Mr Cuomo said in the statement.

"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."

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