Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign this year after being accused of physically assaulting four women (Drew Angerer)
New York (AFP) – Prosecutors announced Thursday that they would not file charges against a New York former attorney general, forced to resign this year after being accused of physically assaulting four women.
But instead, prosecutors have drafted new legislation that would make sexual harassment a class A demeanor, fill “deficiencies in New York law” and protect future victims of sexually-motivated violence.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said she had personally interviewed the women who accused Eric Schneiderman and that while she believed them, legal obstacles prevented the ex-state attorney general from being charged.
“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.
If adopted, the new bill would allow a prosecutor to charge someone who slaps, punches, shoves, or kicks another person without consent for sexual gratification, and relax the current legal definitions of physical injury.
It would allow for a criminal charge when the abusive conduct causes no injury, injuries that do not meet the current legal definition, or injuries that cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt, Singas’s office said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered Singas to investigate the allegations against Schneiderman last May.
The divorced 63-year-old Democrat resigned on May 7, just hours after Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow co-published an explosive article in The New Yorker levelling the assault accusations.
It was a sensational fall from grace for a man who had been a public defender of the #MeToo movement and a thorn in the flesh of US President Donald Trump, subjecting his administration to multiple legal challenges.
Two of the women spoke to The New Yorker on the record, saying they sought medical attention after being slapped hard across the ear and face, and choked. The magazine said none of them classified the behavior as consensual.
New York prosecutors have filed sexual assault charges against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose downfall led to the #MeToo movement and an American cultural reckoning with sexual harassment.
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