A prosecutor urged a New York jury Monday to convict a doctor of federal sex trafficking charges, saying that he hid behind his white coat and the prestige of Columbia University to sexually abuse patients for decades. His defense lawyer countered that acquittal was appropriate because he'd already been punished for those crimes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim described the evidence against former gynecologist Robert Hadden, 64, as "devastating" and "damning" as she recounted testimony by nine victims as well as two nurses who worked with Hadden during a career that stretched from the late 1980s until 2012.
"He donned his white coat and took the oath all doctors do to ‘do no harm’ and then he did the exact opposite," Kim told the Manhattan federal court jury.
She said he tried to "hide behind his white coat" and the prestige of Columbia University as he won over vulnerable patients before sexually abusing them.
"The defendant had a plan, a strategy," Kim said. "This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing."
She said he would ask patients about their sex lives and would conduct lengthy breast examinations that should only last 30 seconds to a minute on every visit for some women. Then, she said, he "hid behind the cover of gynecological exams ... to keep pushing the envelope, to see how far he could go."
Defense attorney Kathryn Wozencroft agreed that what some of Hadden's patients endured at his hands was "disgusting and horrible" and deeds that made it appropriate for a doctor to lose his medical license.
"The harm they suffered is real," she said, adding that "we're not challenging what happened in the exam rooms."
But she said his guilty plea to charges in New York state court seven years ago was for all of those abuses and it would be wrong to convict him of the new charges based on those same crimes. After that plea, Hadden, of Englewood, New Jersey, surrendered his medical license but wasn’t required to serve any jail time.
Wozencroft said the sex trafficking charges require that Hadden knew that the four patients the charges pertain to were traveling over state lines and that he enticed them to do so because he wanted to sexually abuse them.
The defense has maintained throughout the two-week trial that Hadden wasn't aware of where his clients were traveling from or the roster of his appointments each day.
According to the indictment against Hadden, the doctor sexually abused patients from 1993 through at least 2012 while he was working at two prestigious Manhattan hospitals, Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
The institutions have already agreed to pay more than $236 million to settle civil claims by more than 200 former patients.
Among the former patients who have spoken publicly was Evelyn Yang, whose husband, Andrew Yang, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for president in 2020 and for New York City mayor in 2021.
In 2020, she said Hadden sexually assaulted her eight years prior, even when she was seven months pregnant. She had called the sentence in the state case a "slap on the wrist."
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.
Hadden has remained free on $1 million bail since his 2020 arrest.