New York AG Schneiderman resigns amid allegations he physically abused women

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman/Twitter.

Updated: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his resignation Monday night, hours after the New Yorker magazine published allegations by four women who said he physically abused them.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement that he strongly contests the accusations, but they “will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time.” His resignation is effective at the end of the business day on Tuesday. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the New York Law Journal have coverage.

Among the allegations are that Schneiderman choked and hit two of his romantic partners, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam. Both women also said Schneiderman made demeaning remarks and his behavior was controlling. They had reported the allegations to friends.

A third woman, a lawyer who didn’t want to be identified, said Schneiderman became sexually aggressive during a romantic encounter and slapped her hard twice on the face. A fourth woman also said he physically abused her, but she is afraid of him and did not want to be identified.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is opening an investigation of the allegations.

Before his resignation announcement, Schneiderman released a statement that said: “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

Schneiderman has focused on women’s issues as attorney general and in the state legislature. His office filed a civil rights suit against the Weinstein Co. for allegedly failing to protect employees from sexual harassment from Harvey Weinstein. As a state senator, he introduced a bill that would make intentional strangulation to the point of unconsciousness a violent felony, and would make it a misdemeanor when there is choking with an “intent to impede breathing.”

“His hypocrisy is epic,” Manning Barish told the New Yorker. She was involved with Schneiderman from the summer of 2013 until January 2015, and she, like the other women, said the abuse was not consensual.

The abuse began during a night of heavy drinking about a month after she and Schneiderman became romantically involved, Manning Barish said. “All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open-handed and with great force, across the face, landing the blow directly onto my ear,” she told the New Yorker. “It was horrendous. It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed.

“I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”

Manning Barish broke up wtih Schneiderman after the incident, but she eventually went back to him. She said her ear bothered her for months, and at one point blood trickled out of it. During the relationship, Schneiderman often slapped her on the face, she said. He criticized her looks and called her “chubby.” Sometimes he shook her in bed and demanded she repeat phrases such as “I’m a little whore,” Manning Barish said.

Selvaratnam told the New Yorker that the physical abuse intensified during the relationship, which lasted from the summer of 2016 until the fall of 2017. Schneiderman slapped her, spat at her and choked her, she said. He asked her to call him “master” during sex, and wanted her to repeat that she was his property, she said. He told her to buy different clothes, get breast implants and get plastic surgery for a scar, she alleged. Selvaratnam hoped she could get Schneiderman to change and sometimes blamed herself for his behavior.

Jennifer Cunningham, Schneiderman’s ex-wife, released a statement saying she was surprised by the allegations.

“These allegations are completely inconsistent with the man I know, who has always been someone of the highest character, outstanding values, and a loving father,” she said. “I find it impossible to believe these allegations are true.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was among those calling for Schneiderman’s resignation after the allegations first surfaced. The New York Legislature will choose Schneiderman’s replacement. Until then, state solicitor Barbara Underwood will be the acting attorney general, the Associated Press reports.

Underwood issued a statement saying she is honored to serve and the office’s work will continue uninterrupted.

Underwood has argued 20 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and is a former law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Updated at 9:54 a.m. with acting state attorney general selected; updated at 12:20 p.m. with statement by acting state attorney general Underwood.

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