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Schneiderman Won’t Face Criminal Charges After Abuse Investigation

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(Bloomberg) -- Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after being accused of abusing four women, won’t face criminal charges because of a gap in state law that allows some punching and slapping without consent if it’s for "sexual gratification," a prosecutor said.

Madeline Singas, the district attorney for suburban Nassau County on New York’s Long Island, announced the decision Thursday. She also proposed legislation to criminalize such behavior even if there isn’t proof it caused a victim "substantial pain," which is the current standard.

"I believe the women who shared their experiences with our investigation team. However, legal impediments, including statutes of limitations, preclude criminal prosecution," Singas said in a statement.

Schneiderman, who built his reputation as a courtroom foe of President Donald Trump, a tough enforcer of Wall Street and a self-styled advocate for women, quit abruptly in May after the New Yorker published an article that outlined claims of abuse, including violent slapping and choking.

Singas, who was elected in 2015 and has a staff of 350 attorneys serving 1.3 million people, said her office conducted an “exhaustive review,” including interviews with Schneiderman’s staff, security detail and other witnesses.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office gave the probe to Singas after finding Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance was conflicted. Cuomo’s counsel said at the time that it would be "absurd" for Vance to investigate Schneiderman because the Manhattan DA was being investigated by the attorney general over Vance’s handling of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

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New York law should be changed to create a new misdemeanor-level offense for acts like those allegedly committed by Schneiderman because even without proof of substantial pain, victims may be left "with deep emotional wounds,” Singas said.

Schneiderman can’t even be charge with harassment, which is a violation but not a crime, because that would require his intent was to “alarm, harass or annoy," Singas said. A “violation cannot be charged in circumstances where the offender’s intent is his or her sexual arousal or gratification."

Singas said that even in cases where there’s been a physical injury, criminal charges are available only if there’s proof of “more than mere bruises, bumps, abrasions, or superficial cuts,” or evidence the victim suffered “substantial pain."

Schneiderman said in a statement he recognizes that the district attorney’s decision not to prosecute doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong. He apologized to the people of New York.

“I accept full responsibility for my conduct in my relationships with my accusers, and for the impact it had on them,” he said. “I am committed to a lifelong path of recovery and making amends to those I have harmed.”

Schneiderman was replaced by New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood. She’ll return to her old job after Letitia James was elected attorney general on Tuesday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Joe Schneider, David S. Joachim

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