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Ex-CDC Chief Tom Frieden Pleads Guilty, Gets No Jail Time Following Groping Allegation

Frieden in 2016
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Frieden in 2016 Michael Reynolds / Epa/Shutterstock

The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Tuesday, settling a case that revolved around his alleged groping of a family friend.

"Is there anything you would like to say before I impose sentence?" Brooklyn criminal court Judge Edwin Novillo asked Frieden, according to the NY Post. Frieden reportedly said no, and received a conditional discharge: Provided he behaves himself and stays away from the complainant for the next year, he'll receive no penalty and his case will be sealed.

Frieden was arrested on charges of forcible touching, sexual abuse, and harassment in August 2018, for an incident that occurred in 2017. After he turned himself in, police released him without bail.

The groping victim filed a criminal complaint in July 2018, regarding an incident that happened around 11 p.m. on October 20th, 2017 at Frieden's Brooklyn Heights home. The woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, says Frieden placed his hand on her butt and squeezed, which "alarmed and annoyed" her. Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Michael Yavinsky granted her an order of protection, barring Frieden from contacting her. The ex-CDC chief, meanwhile, initially pleaded not guilty on all counts against him.

Frieden served as New York City Health Commissioner from 2002 to 2009, departing his role to helm the CDC from 2009 to 2017. An infectious disease specialist, he piloted the agency during outbreaks of Zika, swine flu, and Ebola. (His response to that last one attracted criticism particularly from Congressional Republicans who wanted to impose a travel ban on West African countries grappling with outbreaks.)

When President Donald Trump took office, Frieden left to head up Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health initiative. When the complaint against Frieden came to light, his boss—José L. Castro, president and chief executive of Vital Strategies, which runs Resolve to Save Lives—reportedly said Frieden had never raised "any concerns or reports of inappropriate conduct" at work. His Twitter and Resolve to Save Lives bios both list him as current president and CEO, so he presumably kept his job, despite the incident he pleaded guilty to today.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Frieden initially pleaded guilty to the charges against him, when in fact he initially pleaded not guilty.

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