Just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he was appointing Nassau County D.A. Madeline Singas to be the "Special Prosecutor and Special Deputy Attorney General" to investigate the assault accusations against former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. But Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, who had already announced his own investigation, is not pleased. Vance sent a late night letter to the governor, stating, "While I have absolute confidence that DA Singas can conduct a thorough and effective review (and putting aside the legality of the way you have framed this directive), I strongly object to this move, for a number of important reasons."
In March, Cuomo had appointed Schneiderman to probe Vance's handling of a 2015 assault accusation made by an Italian model against Harvey Weinstein. Despite the existence of an audio recording in which Weinstein admits he groped the woman without her permission, and despite the NYPD's apparent belief that the movie producer should be charged, Vance's office declined to prosecute. That decision drew additional scrutiny after reporting from the NY Times and New Yorker about Weinstein's pattern of predatory behavior, resulting in new investigations in NYC, LA and London.
In his letter to Cuomo, Vance writes, "[T]he only potential conflict here is one of your creation: your recent directive that the AG’s office review, among other things, a 2015 investigation of Harvey Weinstein by my office and the NYPD. As I made clear to your office at the time, this review is an unwarranted intrusion by an elected executive into a charging decision by an independent prosecutor... As I made clear to your office at the time, this review is an unwarranted intrusion by an elected executive into a charging decision by an independent prosecutor."
The FULL Vance letter to Cuomo. A must-read: pic.twitter.com/wjRuSW0U2B
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 9, 2018
Cuomo's counsel, Alphonso David, responded, "Confronted with the reality of a conflict, we took action to ensure both the integrity of the investigation and the public's confidence in the process. In doing so, we put in place an elected official and independent prosecutor who could preside over the investigation without the specter of conflict or compromise. I view the District Attorney's editorial commentary as both inappropriate and misguided given the ongoing investigations."
In a harrowing New Yorker article, four women describe how Schneiderman slapped them during relationships or dating, sometimes spitting on them, choking them, belittling them, and threatening them to stay silent. One woman said, he "would almost always drink two bottles of wine in a night, then bring a bottle of Scotch into the bedroom. He would get absolutely plastered five nights out of seven."
Schneiderman has maintained that he never assaulted anyone and that he "engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity" only, but resigned three hours after the New Yorker article was published.
The incidents occurred in New York City and the Hamptons, and both Vance and Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said they would investigate the allegations. However, Sini's office said on Tuesday, "Earlier today, Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo indicated that he may appoint a special prosecutor to investigate this matter. Should that occur, our office would support that effort and provide any assistance necessary."
Singas, who was born in Queens and worked as a prosecutor for the Queens D.A. before becoming Nassau County D.A. in 2015, said in a statement, "Pursuant to the Governor’s executive order, we will vigorously investigate the allegations for which jurisdiction has been granted. To echo my earlier statement, I will not accept any appointment nor seek election to the next office of the New York State Attorney General."