NEW YORK (AP) — The governor and Manhattan district attorney are putting aside a squabble over who should investigate abuse allegations against former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. appeared at a news conference Thursday with Andrew Cuomo and the district attorney for Long Island to show support for the probe into Schneiderman.
Schneiderman resigned hours after he was accused of abuse by four women in a New Yorker article published Monday. He denied abusing them.
Cuomo replaced Vance, who has jurisdiction over most of the allegations made in the article, with Greek-American Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. Cuomo, Vance, Singas and Schneiderman are all Democrats.
Cuomo said the move was to avoid a possible perception of conflict because he had earlier ordered Schneiderman’s office to look into how Vance’s office handled a 2015 case against Harvey Weinstein that resulted in no criminal charges.
Both directives are legal — but highly unusual.
Vance strongly objected, and the offices traded sharply-written letters. On Thursday, Vance said his office had already started sending subpoenas in the case when Cuomo removed him and he was merely trying to get an investigation off the ground swiftly.
“Perhaps I was a little frustrated when the ground rules changed,” Vance said. “I completely understand the governor’s decision.”
He said he still has concerns over the process of removing a sitting prosecutor, but his priority is to the victims.
“Process is important, but justice for victims of crime in Manhattan is my top priority and it always will be,” he said. “An extended back and forth about process does not serve victims.”
Cuomo said he had the utmost respect for Vance — but his opinion doesn’t matter, it’s the public perception that matters.
“It’s the opinion of the victims, the opinion of women’s groups, and you don’t want an appearance of or the perception of a conflict,” he said.
Singas said she had dedicated at team of prosecutors who would also look into whether Schneiderman used his position to abuse women within his office — or whether he used it to intimidate women outside of work.
Schneiderman’s attorney, Isabelle Kirshner, issued a statement saying, “Eric appreciates the serious allegations that have been made against him and we will respond to them appropriately at the proper time. We are confident that DA Singas will conduct a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation. While we are confident that this investigation will result in no criminal charges, should charges be brought, we intend to defend our client vigorously.”
The women reported they were slapped, choked and verbally abused by Schneiderman, often during sexual intercourse. They strongly rejected the Democratic politician’s explanation that any abuse was the result of consensual, intimate “role-playing.” Some of the allegations were to have occurred on Suffolk County; District Attorney Timothy Sini is looking into those cases and will help Singas.
Singas asked that any other women should call her office and assured a swift and thorough investigation.
Harvey Weinstein’s criminal defense attorney Ben Brafman said the decision to close the 2015 case “was the absolute correct decision.”
By COLLEEN LONG and DEEPTI HAJELA , Associated Press