ALBANY — The solicitor general will replace State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who promptly resigned after several women he had a relationship with accused him of physical abuse.
Schneiderman, who has served as the state attorney general since 2010, resigned within hours of the New Yorker magazine reporting he slapped, choked or spat on at least four women he was intimate with. The accusations include alcohol-fueled rages, racist remarks, drug abuse and threats.
“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as Attorney General for the people of the state of New York,” said Schneiderman, 63. “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time.”
Schneiderman officially left office last Tuesday. He has denied assaulting anyone or engaging in nonconsensual sex.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” according to a statement Schneiderman wrote to the New Yorker. “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Schneiderman will be replaced in the interim by Solicitor General Barbara Underwood. Underwood’s appointment was announced last week by the attorney general’s office.
“I am honored to serve the people of New York as acting attorney general,” Underwood said. “The work of this office is critically important. Our office has never been stronger, and this extraordinarily talented, dedicated and tireless team of public servants will ensure that our work continues without interruption.”
Before leaving office, Schneiderman and his team had several ongoing legal actions, most of which were initiated after President Donald Trump took office.
The actions include a lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which helps children of undocumented immigrants, and a lawsuit against movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein and his production company seeking reparations after several women accused him of sexual harassment last fall.
Schneiderman’s office filed the Weinstein lawsuit in February “to remedy a years-long gender-based hostile work environment, a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment and routine misuse of corporate resources for unlawful ends that extended from in or about 2005 through at least in or about October 2017,” according to court documents.
Underwood was sworn in to office last Tuesday in Albany. She was appointed as solicitor general by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in 2007. She served as counsel and chief assistant to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York prior to being appointed solicitor general, according to the attorney general’s office.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed for protections against workplace harassment in the 2018 state budget, announced Tuesday he will direct an appropriate district attorney in the state to investigate the accusations against Schneiderman.
“The New Yorker has published an article on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which reports multiple women making serious allegations of assault,” Cuomo said. “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer. I will be asking an appropriate New York district attorney to commence an immediate investigation and proceed as the facts merit.
“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general, and for the good of the office, he should resign.”
The next attorney general should be an independent chosen by voters in November said state Sen. George Amedore, Jr., R-46.
“The allegations against Eric Schneiderman are sick and disturbing, and should be fully investigated,” Amedore said. “Now that he has rightfully resigned, we should not allow the next attorney general to be selected by political bosses in Albany, but by the voters this November.”
The New York Times contributed to this report.