A judge says he plans to sentence a former gynecologist to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing dozens of patients over two decades.
Judge Richard M. Berman announced his intention Monday to hear the sentencing of former Columbia doctor Robert Haden. That hearing is expected to continue during Tuesday’s sentencing.
Berman also suggested he sentence Haden, 64, to life supervision after his release.
He described the case as ‘vulgar, serious, out of control, humiliating, extraordinary’.
Haden, a federal prosecutor, used his position of power for decades to sexually assault, rape and molest patients in fake and predatory medical examinations.
Robert Haden, 64, built a career at the prestigious New York hospital from the late 1980s until 2012 and pleaded guilty in January to sexually abusing his patients.
Rape victims Lori Caniock, second from right, and Amy Yoni, right, talk to members of the media during a break in Haden’s sentencing Monday outside federal court in New York.
Haden has been in custody since his January conviction on four counts of sexually abusing them.
The 20-year sentence would be nearly four times the term of a proposed federal sentencing guidelines.
The guidelines are calculated for each case so that people convicted of certain crimes are generally treated equally, and judges can go below or above the guidelines but must explain why.
The judge said the crimes Haden committed while working at hospitals, including Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, deserved a longer sentence because his actions likely began in the 1980s.
The judge said the patients were particularly vulnerable because most of them were pregnant, some of whom suffered serious medical problems.
Berman said the case was like nothing he had seen before and involved ‘appalling, horrific, extraordinary, beyond unpleasant sexual abuse.’ He noted that the government reported that at least 245 women claimed they were abused by Haden.
Haden had a trick where he would appear as if he was wrapping up an exam only to say as a nurse left the room that he had to do another exam.
A federal judge said he plans to sentence Hadden, 64, to 20 years in prison
He would then place his tongue or gloved fingers into their vaginas or caress their breasts under the guise of examination.
‘I heard, I believed him. I trusted him,’ a patient told the court how she was assaulted by the doctor who removed his rubber gloves and then used his hands and tongue to attack her.
‘All I could think was, “How do I get out of here? I have to get out of here,”‘ she said.
Haden, who wore a beige prison uniform, watched the victims speak during the nearly four-hour sentencing hearing.
Some former patients broke down in tears as Judge Berman described the abuse, reports CBS News.
The judge’s announcement of his sentencing plan drew a complaint from defense attorney Deirdre von Dornam who said the sentence was overly harsh.
‘Here you have someone who has already lost everything, and you’re effectively sentencing him to life,’ Dornum said.
Von Dornum also argued that prosecutors ignored the opinion of a psychiatrist who told the court Haden could not reoffend because he was no longer a gynecologist.
He also said the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office ignored his role as the primary caregiver for Haden’s disabled wife and son.
‘The position of the government is understandable at one point. The pain Mr Hadden has caused is immeasurable – emotional harm always is – and the punishment is truly necessary to mark the cause of the harm,’ his attorney wrote.
‘That’s why we’re not asking for leniency for this 64-year-old first-time offender who hasn’t committed a crime for over a decade and has an extraordinarily compelling family situation, but instead a guideline sentence.’
The lawyer said his client is enduring harsh prison conditions at a federal lockup in Brooklyn, where inmates threaten and extort him to return his commissary money.
Haden has lost 35 pounds and has received repeated threats of violence that require him to stay in his cell without showering or calling family members, his lawyers said.
Evelyn Young, wife of former presidential hopeful Andrew Young, revealed in 2020 that she had been victimized by Haden eight years earlier.
Kanyok, a former Broadway dancer, was among the defendants who filed a civil suit against Columbia University trustees.
Nine victims spoke in the first phase of the sentencing hearing late last month.
Four victims traveled to New York City from as far away as Nevada for appointments, while the jury heard from five other women who said they were abused by Haden, as well as a nurse and former medical assistant who said they witnessed further assaults.
Several attended Monday’s event but were not invited to speak again.
Among Haden’s accusers was Evelyn Young, wife of former president and New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Young.
Former Broadway dancer Lori Kaniok was among the defendants who brought a civil suit against Columbia University and its affiliated College of Physicians and Surgeons and trustees of New York Presbyterian Hospital.
At trial, the women testified in graphic detail about how Haden repeatedly forced them to submit to sexual breast exams and touched their vaginas in a way that appeared to be sexual rather than medical.
They urged the judge to give him the maximum sentence.
Yoni, right, and Kanyok, left, embrace after speaking to members of the media during a break in the sentencing on Monday
Yoni, right, and Lori Caniock, left, talk to members of the media during a break in the sentencing proceedings of convicted sex offender Robert Haden.
A woman speaking under the pseudonym Emily Anderson said: ‘Robert Haden is a sex predator in a white coat.
Amy Yoni, who was employed as a research nurse in Columbia’s cardiology department, said outside court that she had been Haden’s victim for nearly 12 years and felt ‘intense guilt’ that she had referred her best friend and others to Haden, thinking he was a trusted physician.
‘He walks into the courtroom and he acts like he’s in a happy hour. He barked, looking around. I think he’s a real sociologist,’ she said.
Yoni said he blames Columbia for not listening to complaints about Haden and the warning signs.
Attorney Anthony T. DiPietro, who represents numerous of Haden’s victims, said the women kept saying they were Haden’s victims, too.
Trial evidence showed Hadden sexually assaulted 167 to 310 patients or assaulted dozens of patients as he honed his abuse techniques so the assaults went undetected for more than 20 years, prosecutors wrote.
He said he believed Hadden treated between 6,000 and 8,000 women and that his victims numbered in the ‘hundreds if not thousands’.
“You’ve literally done something for that institution that they’ve proven time and time again that they’ve been unable to do themselves: Get rid of this serial sex predator,” DiPietro told the women who came forward.
‘While I hope that today marks the end of a chapter for all of you who have come into contact with this predator—if it hasn’t already—I hope that today can be used to begin the transition from survival, healing and growth.’
In 1987, Haden began working at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, which later became New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
The institutions have agreed to pay more than $236 million to settle civil claims by more than 200 former patients.
‘Hadden’s prosecution that led to his federal felony conviction shows how he purposefully worked to avoid our oversight and engineered conditions to abuse his patients,’ a Columbia spokeswoman said.
‘We appreciate all the women who have come forward, especially those who have publicly shared their experiences during these judicial proceedings.’
At trial, Haden’s attorneys did not dispute that he molested patients, but they said he had already been tried for those crimes in state court where he pleaded guilty in 2016 to assaulting several women.
He had to surrender his medical license for that plea, but he never went to jail.
Prosecutors said in their papers that Haden’s “calculated career as a serial sex predator” began in 1987 shortly after he began working at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, which later became New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
One victim said she blamed Columbia University for not listening to complaints about Haden and the warning signs. Image of the university’s New York City campus in Manhattan above
Trial testimony showed that Haden sexually assaulted or assaulted dozens of patients, including minors, between 167 and 310, as he honed his abuse techniques so that the attacks went undetected for more than 20 years, prosecutors wrote.
They said he developed relationships with victims in a private office decorated with pictures of his children and made them feel comfortable by asking about their personal lives and talking about his family.
Finally, he sought sexual gratification when he asked the victims ‘detailed, inappropriate and medically unnecessary questions and offered unsolicited advice and comments about their bodies, pubic hair, masturbation, sexual activity, sex toys, pornography and sexual partners,’ prosecutors said.
They said he contrived to leave nurses and medical assistants alone with patients in exam rooms, where he pretended he had to ‘conduct a fake second exam, during which he sexually assaulted the patients.’
He worked at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital until his assault charges ended his career.
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