Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas has been appointed as a special prosecutor by Governor Cuomo to investigate allegations that former State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman abused four women.
No formal charges have been filed against Schneiderman, 63, who resigned Monday, three hours after the allegations surfaced in a May 7 New Yorker magazine article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow.
Singas announced her appointment via Twitter late Tuesday night. “Pursuant to the Governor’s executive order,” she wrote on Office of the District Attorney letterhead, “we will vigorously investigate the allegations for which jurisdiction has been granted.”
Singas has made rooting out public corruption a top priority recently, and has also focused on prosecuting domestic violence throughout her career.
Singas’s authority in the investigation will supersede that of the New York County district attorney’s office because, Cuomo said, “at a minimum,” there appears to be a conflict of interest there.
“There can be no suggestion of any possibility of the reality or appearance of any conflict, or anything less than a full, complete and unbiased investigation,” Cuomo said. “The victims deserve nothing less.”
Singas said further that she would not accept appointment nor seek election to the office of state attorney general.
“While I appreciate the support of those who have encouraged me to run for New York state attorney general, I am committed to continuing my important work as Nassau County D.A.,” Singas said.
Published reports earlier on Tuesday had suggested Singas as a possible candidate to replace Schneiderman.
A host of other possible replacements were floated in political circles Tuesday, including U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from Garden City, who was the Nassau County district attorney before Singas, and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach. The State Legislature must appoint Schneiderman's replacement. Those wishing to be considered for the post must submit applications by Friday.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini will work alongside Singas specifically to investigate an alleged incident in the Hamptons that was detailed in the New Yorker piece.
According to Mayer and Farrow’s reporting, at a 2016 party, Schneiderman was drinking heavily, and brought a woman he knew professionally to another location where, in the course of making out, Schneiderman said made remarks that “repelled” the woman, and when she resisted, he slapped her across the face.
Schneiderman quickly rose to prominence in the #MeToo movement, after bringing a civil rights suit in February against disgraced Hollywood producer and alleged serial abuser Harvey Weinstein.
Schneiderman also, as a state senator in 2010, championed a bill that successfully criminalized strangulation — one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence.
“The time to criminalize this horrific form of abuse is now," Schneiderman said at a 2010 news conference.
Schneiderman’s public role as a defender of women and scourge to abusers, according to Mayer and Farrow, was too much for the accusers.
The abuse alleged by the four women occurred during what were supposed to be romantic encounters, according to the New Yorker article, “Four Women Accuse New York's Attorney General of Abuse.”
Here is how the piece began: “As [Schneiderman’s] prominence as a voice against sexual misconduct has risen, so, too, has the distress of four women with whom he has had romantic relationships or encounters. They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence. All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal. But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent.”
Cuomo called the charges “grossly disturbing,” and said they would be “fully investigated.”
Schneiderman, despite his resignation, has denied all charges against him.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” he said in a statement on Monday. “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Schneiderman was married for six years. The couple divorced in 1996. He served for 10 years in the State Senate before winning election as state attorney general.