Cuomo calls for investigation into allegations against Schneiderman

Courtesy of the Attorney General’s Office

Top lawmakers and the governor are reacting to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s resignation following reports of sexual assault allegations published in The New Yorker on Monday.

Schneiderman announced his resignation last night and will leave his office effective at the close of business today.

“The New Yorker has published an article on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which reports multiple women making serious allegations of assault.  No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “I will be asking an appropriate New York District Attorney to commence an immediate investigation, and proceed as the facts merit.”

Two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam spoke to The New Yorker. According to the article the women allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking. “The allegations outlined in the New Yorker this evening are deeply troubling and indefensible,” Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said. “The Attorney General has lost the ability to serve the people of New York and to lead this important office.”

Allegations leveled against Schneiderman include accounts of physical abuse such as slapping or choking the women without consent as well as verbal abuse and threats. Physical attacks against Manning Barish resulted in a perforated eardrum and bleeding from her ear. According to The New Yorker Schneiderman would call Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, his “‘brown slave.’”

“These are very serious allegation. I support Governor Cuomo’s call for a thorough investigation,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “Based on what has been reported, I believe it will be very difficult for Eric Schneiderman to continue as New York State Attorney.”

The women said he would also threaten them with further physical abuse, surveillance and even death when they did not do what he told them to, saying that he was the law, The New Yorker reported.“The allegations made against Eric Schneiderman are credible and abhorrent. He has made the only decision that is possible,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “These four women who have come forward are heroes that have stopped further abuse.”

Manning Barish said Schneiderman pressed her to consume large amounts of alcohol and that he would get “absolutely plastered” five nights a week. In the article she also said that Schneiderman took prescription tranquilizers, and often asked her to refill a prescription that she had for Xanax.

She told The New Yorker that,“his hypocrisy is epic,” especially in light of Schneiderman’s activism for women’s groups and his legal action against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein following numerous allegations of sexual assault and harassment leveled against him. She also said told The New Yorker, “‘you cannot be a champion of women when you are hitting them and choking them in bed, and saying to them, ‘You’re a fucking whore.’’”

“The descriptions by these brave women of the physical and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are sickening. It is the right decision for him to resign immediately,” gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon said. “The women who came forward so courageously to tell their stories and spared others from suffering are heroines. The investigation should continue. We need to get to the bottom of the enormous culture of silence that protects those in power. We must continue to work to end this national epidemic.”

At the moment, the Attorney General’s Office is being filled on a temporary basis by the state’s solicitor general, Barbara Underwood. The Legislature began to convene in Albany today to choose a temporary replacement for Schneiderman ahead of November’s elections.

After a two hour meeting behind closed doors, Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie told reports waiting outside of the Assembly office the possible candidates had not been the focus of today’s discussions.

“[Discussions] were really around the legislature’s authority and options of what can happen,” Heastie said. “I don’t think I’m going to have a definitive answer as to what’s going to happen in the next few minutes.”