We speak to the attorney suing Columbia University and its affiliated hospitals on behalf of some 300 more patients who say they were sexually assaulted by former Columbia University obstetrician Robert Hadden over two decades while Columbia shielded the sexual predator. Anthony T. DiPietro filed a new lawsuit against the university and its affiliated hospitals earlier this week. “Columbia knew from the beginning,” DiPietro says of Hadden’s abuse and its subsequent cover-up. Survivors, he continues, “shouldn’t be having to carry this burden around with them for their entire lives.”
AMY GOODMAN: Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital reached two settlements with hundreds of Hadden victims in 2021 and 2022. This week, 301 additional former patients of Hadden who allege they were sexually exploited and abused by him filed a new lawsuit that argues Dr. Hadden is, quote, “the most prolific serial sexual predator in New York state history.”
For more, we’re joined by the attorney who’s been suing Columbia for over a decade to hold the university accountable for covering up Hadden’s abuse, Anthony DiPietro. He’s joining us from Salt Lake City, Utah, also Evelyn Yang’s attorney.
Thank you so much for being with us. So, as this was playing out on this beautiful blue-sky day on Wednesday up at Columbia University, the victims of Dr. Hadden, together with well over a hundred medical students in their white coats, demanding that the university notify the patients, Anthony DiPietro, you had just filed yet another lawsuit. Columbia has already paid out something like, what, a quarter of a billion dollars to patients of Hadden? Talk about this latest lawsuit.
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Yeah, that’s correct, Amy. And thank you. You know, the recent filing that we made this past week brings the total victims and survivors of Columbia University and Robert Hadden to over 538 patients. Robert Hadden abused single women, married women, pregnant women, recent mothers. He even abused a 16-year-old, who he previously had delivered, at her first GYN visit. He literally is the most prolific serial sexual predator in the history of New York state.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain. Take us back to the beginning. I mean, on Democracy Now!, we’ve had a number of Hadden’s patients on. Can you explain? There’s two issues here. One is that Dr. Hadden sexually assaulted — was just found guilty, sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting patients. But then there’s the issue of what Columbia knew and when the university knew it. Talk about that, Anthony.
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Sure. So, Columbia knew from the beginning what they were dealing with with Robert Hadden, at every level. The chairperson, the risk management people, they knew what they were dealing with. But for the past 36 years, they have been covering up this abuse from the public, from the patients, and even from the state prosecutors.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the evidence that you have of this. In fact, you’re in Utah right now. You’re in Salt Lake City. Wasn’t it a patient now who is in Utah who said they notified Columbia decades ago?
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Correct. So, one of our clients saw Evelyn Yang on TV a couple years ago and said — and reached out to us and said, “Hey, you know, this guy abused me in 1993, and I wrote a letter to the chairman, and the chairman wrote back.”
AMY GOODMAN: The chairman?
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: And I believe, you know — the chairman, the chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, wrote back, acknowledged that she was abused, and said he was going to take care of the problem, but he was going on vacation next week, and he would deal with it when he got back. And he never did anything.
AMY GOODMAN: We also had Laurie Kanyok on recently, another of Dr. Hadden’s patients. She’s the patient who was in his office, and to her horror, she felt him licking her. She called her partner. She was very pregnant. Her partner raced to where she was, and was calling the police repeatedly. The police came to their home, then went right to the Columbia Hospital, where Dr. Hadden was, his office, and had him arrested. So, Columbia absolutely knew at that point. Can you talk about that case? Yet he was back at work the next week, after being arrested by police for sexual assault.
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Amy, it is outrageous. This guy was arrested at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Every person at the university, at the hospital, who needed to know, knew. Mary D’Alton, who was the current and still is the current chairperson of obstetrics and gynecology, knew. John Evanko, Hadden’s direct supervisor, knew. Jane Booth, general counsel for Columbia University, knew. And what they did is they got their lawyers, they got the arrest vacated, and they let him back that next Tuesday so he can continue abusing patients. Five weeks later is when he assaulted Evelyn Yang.
AMY GOODMAN: So he came back and then went on to assault. Now, this is the question: How many people have been assaulted by Dr. Hadden? You heard at that Columbia University protest the demand, the medical students repeating over and over, chanting “Notify the patients.” Talk about the significance of this. The only entity that knows who all of Hadden’s patients are is Columbia University. Is that right? For all of the people he’s seen for decades. What has been officially put out? Aside from people seeing shows like Democracy Now! or reading ProPublica, the investigations, or seeing someone like Evelyn Yang on television, how do people know whether they can come forward? And the significance of this one-year lookback that Governor Hochul signed off on of adult survivors being able to sue, only, though, if they report this by November 23rd? In fact, E. Jean Carroll, assaulted, sexually assaulted by President Trump, used this lookback to bring her lawsuit, though the case — the attack took place decades ago.
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Sure. Amy, make no mistake about this: These are Columbia University’s patients. These weren’t Robert Hadden’s patients. These were patients of Columbia University. Columbia has the medical records. Columbia has the patient lists. Columbia did all the billing. In 2016, the state of New York ordered that all of Hadden’s patients be notified that he lost his license, but Columbia is saying that the burden isn’t on them, it’s on Robert Hadden. That is outrageous. They weren’t Hadden’s patients; they were Columbia’s patients. And Columbia is the only one that could possibly contact them. But they’re refusing to do it. And that’s why we’re pushing.
And here’s why this is important, OK? It’s not just about the Adult Survivors Act, although that is important. I have gotten countless phone calls from women who, you know, they happen to see this on the news, or they see it on social media, and they call me, and they’re like, “Oh my god, this happened to me 15 years ago, and I’ve been carrying this around, thinking that I was the only person, like maybe I did something wrong to invite this.” They need to know that they’re not alone. They shouldn’t be having to carry this burden around with them for their entire lives because Columbia’s administration refuses to send them a notification letter to let them know that Robert Hadden is a convicted sexual predator who they covered up for.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Belkis Hull, who I also spoke to at Wednesday’s protest at Columbia University.
BELKIS HULL: This is Belkis Hull. I was a patient from 2005 to 2010. I had asked my friends that had seen him if they thought there was something wrong, and they said no. So I continued to go, thinking it was natural. It wasn’t only until last December that I found out that I have been abused over and over. He loved to give pain to his patients. And we thought that was normal. Let us not normalize it. If you ever feel there’s something wrong, listen to your gut and speak out. Keep speaking out. Keep spreading the word, because this is not over.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Belkis Hull, speaking through a loudspeaker, and speaking to — along with Laurie Maldonado, another guest we have had on, a victim of Dr. Hadden, through a little bullhorn, as they also thanked the medical students for coming forward. One of the things that Belkis Hull talked about was the pain that Dr. Hadden had put these patients through, like Laurie Maldonado, who went for a checkup. She didn’t know that most people don’t go in for endless checkups during their nine months, but Hadden kept calling her in. Two months before she gave birth, and as she lay on the examining table, he put his hand up her and punched. And these women at Columbia talked about his inflicting pain, that that was part of his sickness and his crime. Anthony DiPietro, if you could comment on this?
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Yeah, so, I’ve seen a lot of patterns, right? And this is absolutely one of them. He had this sadistic streak where he would inflict pain on women. Oftentimes he would do it if they weren’t compliant with other things. And this was part of what he was doing. And again, Columbia knew the entire time, but instead of protecting patients, what they were doing is they were protecting a predator.
AMY GOODMAN: So, at this point, how has Columbia explained why they haven’t sent a letter out to every one of the patients they know Hadden had?
ANTHONY DIPIETRO: Right. There’s no explanation for it. We have been pushing them for years, for five, six, seven years: Send out a letter to the patients. Notify them that they didn’t do anything wrong. They were exposed to this predator. But their excuse is that the burden is on Hadden. Right? Because the order from the state was directed at Hadden. But again, these weren’t Hadden’s patients. And what is Columbia saying? Is Columbia saying that if Robert Hadden shows up at the medical records office and says, “Hey, give me, you know, the names and home addresses of all these women that I’ve been abusing since 1987,” that Columbia is going to turn that information over to him? That’s ridiculous.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to another clip, when we did speak to Laurie Maldonado, the former patient of Robert Hadden between 2000 — who gave testimony at his sentencing. She described what happened to her when she was nine months pregnant.
LAURIE MALDONADO: I was sexually assaulted by Robert Hadden two days before the birth of my child. I went in for, you know, my kind of — my checkup. My ex-husband was in the room with me. And we were just excited. I remember that in the office room, my — I went to the bathroom, and my mucus plug had dropped, so I was really imminent away from the birth, and we were really excited. And Hadden came in the room, and he had a glimmer in his eye. And I thought that that glimmer was that he was excited, like me, for the birth, but now I realize it was an opportunity for him to commit sexual assault.
And he later said, “Oh, one more thing. I need to check you.” And he took me behind the curtain, away from my husband, and put me on the exam table. And what I thought was, you know, that he was going to check my cervix just to make sure that the baby was OK. But that’s not what happened. What did happen was Hadden used his hands to harm me, and he stuck his fist inside of my vagina. And it was so painful, and I screamed and I cried out in pain. And he abruptly left the room.
My husband at the time came over to me, checked on me. He said, “Are you OK?” And I was like, “No, I’m not OK.” And then he asked me a really important question. He said, “Do you feel violated?” And I said, “Yes.”
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Laurie Maldonado. To see the whole interview with her, one of Dr. Hadden’s survivors, you can go to democracynow.org. Anthony DiPietro, I want to thank you very much for being with us, attorney representing women who were sexually abused by former Columbia University obstetrician-gynecologist Robert Hadden. DiPietro has filed a new lawsuit against the university and its affiliated hospitals on behalf of an additional 301 patients who were allegedly sexually assaulted by Hadden.
Also this related news: In California, George Tyndall, the former University of Southern California gynecologist accused of sexual abuse by hundreds of students, was found dead at his home this week. USC agreed to pay over a billion dollars in settlements to survivors. Survivors have said Tyndall raped or forcibly touched them, made racist and misogynistic comments while he sexually abused them. Tyndall was awaiting trial and out on a $1.3 million bail.