NEW YORK (AP) — A gynecologist who molested hundreds of patients during a decadeslong career was convicted of federal sex crime charges Tuesday and allowed to return home to the disappointment of numerous victims who told the judge he should face immediate punishment.
Robert Hadden, 64, of Englewood, New Jersey, was convicted after less than a day of deliberations at a two-week trial that featured testimony by nine former patients who described how he had abused them sexually for years when they were most vulnerable. Sentencing was set for April 25.
Judge Richard M. Berman noted that Hadden did not receive a prison sentence when he admitted in state court seven years ago that he molested patients for years. His conviction in federal court on four counts of enticing victims to cross state lines so he could sexually abuse them carries a potential penalty of decades in prison.
“People are mystified,” Berman said, citing the success Hadden has had at avoiding prison. “There is a feeling that somehow or another he skirts the process."
Hadden, who is subject to electronic monitoring and was free on $1 million, was permitted to leave the courthouse. Yet even as Berman rejected requests by a prosecutor and 10 victims that Hadden be immediately jailed, the judge set a hearing next week to further consider the request for his detention before sentencing.
Among women who share the judge's view is Evelyn Yang, whose husband, Andrew Yang, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for president in 2020 and for New York City mayor in 2022. She has called the state sentence a “slap on the wrist," saying in 2010 that Hadden sexually assaulted her eight years earlier when she was seven months pregnant. She was in court for Tuesday's verdict.
“This is such a victory for all of us,” Yang said. “It's also validating. The jury came back with their verdict so quickly. And he was found guilty on all counts. That just, I think, leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was a serial predator who deserves to be imprisoned.”
Hadden worked at two prestigious Manhattan hospitals — Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital — until complaints about his attacks shut down his career a decade ago.
The institutions have already agreed to pay more than $236 million to settle civil claims by more than 200 former patients.
After the verdict, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim argued that Hadden should be immediately jailed as a risk to flee and a danger to the community.
Deirdre Von Dornum, his lawyer, countered that he was no risk to flee and had a perfect record while on bail. She said he was not a danger to the community either. At trial, his lawyers did not contest that he molested patients. They said his state court plea covered those crimes and that federal charges alleging patients from New Jersey and Nevada crossed state lines to be sexually abused were inappropriate since he didn't know where they came from.
To support the prosecution's argument for immediate detention, eight former patients spoke of the lasting harm the doctor caused them and Kim read statements from two more victims.
One woman said she became a Hadden patient because she was friends with his niece. She said he would talk about his niece even while he molested her.
“This conviction helps a lot,” said another woman who first became a patient in 1993 and went to Hadden for nearly 20 years.
Another woman said she went to see him when she was 21 years old. She said he groomed her for abuse by telling her he would provide free birth control and would serve as her dermatologist, insisting that she be completely naked for full-body checks at every appointment.
One woman who spoke at the hearing said it was the first time she'd spoken publicly of her abuse. She said Hadden put his fist inside her for no medical purpose two days before she delivered a child.
“The pain that happened that day was more painful than childbirth,” she said. She called him a “sociopath who needs to be behind bars as soon as possible.”
“Get rid of him now!” demanded another former patient.
The last woman to speak said she was a 20-year-old virgin and of an orthodox religious faith when she first went to Hadden. She said Hadden was so invasive at her first appointment when she was seeking birth control that she bled.
“I didn't bleed on my wedding night,” she said.
The Associated Press generally withholds the names of sexual abuse victims from stories unless they have decided to tell their stories publicly, which Yang and others have done.
As the women spoke, Hadden — wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus — sat next to his wife and occasionally rubbed her arm. At other times, he fidgeted with his hands. When leaving the courthouse, he said he had no comment.
After the verdict, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams issued a statement calling Hadden “a predator in a white coat.”
“For years, he cruelly lured women who sought professional medical care to his offices in order to gratify himself. Hadden’s victims trusted him as a physician, only to instead become victims of his heinous predilection,” he said.
At trial, former patients described how Hadden questioned them about their personal lives, including their sexual experience, before touching them inappropriately.
An indictment charged Hadden with sexually abusing patients from 1993 through at least 2012, although Kim noted in her closing argument that a nurse testified that he molested patients in the late 1980s.