All twelve members of the New York City Council’s women’s caucus are calling for the resignation of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance over his perceived mishandling of a string of high-profile sexual assault cases.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the councilmembers said that despite Vance having less than two years left before he’s up for re-election in November of 2021, it’s time for him to go.

“There’s a long history of District Attorney Vance’s office failing to effectively prosecute other powerful white men,” said the women’s caucus co-chair Councilmember Carlina Rivera. “We also want to assure that the next District Attorney is prioritizing sex crimes and taking it seriously. What we want to see is a real sea change in this office.”

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal seconded Rivera’s remarks.

“[Vance has] lost the faith of survivors. On that basis alone, I think he should consider resigning,” she said. “It’s too hard to be a survivor, having to relive the trauma over and over again, and then to have the district attorney drop the ball.”

Vance spokesman Danny Frost said the DA’s office offered to discuss matters with the women’s caucus earlier this week.

“We hope they take us up on it,” he said.

The City Council has no direct oversight role over the Manhattan District Attorney. But the women’s caucus is the latest group to call for Vance’s resignation, following renewed anger over a 2016 plea deal his office brokered with sex offender and former Columbia University gynecologist Robert Hadden.

Prosecutors were aware of 19 women who said they’d been abused by Hadden during gynecological exams, yet Vance’s office brokered a deal with the doctor that allowed him to avoid jail time.

Hadden’s plea agreement was brought to the fore again after Evelyn Yang, wife of presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, revealed in an interview with CNN last month that she had been sexually assaulted by Hadden while she was pregnant in 2012, six weeks after police had arrested Hadden in his office after a patient said he had licked her vagina during an exam. That arrest was later voided by the district attorney’s office, according to court transcripts.

Yang described contacting prosecutors through an attorney who told her they were already investigating Hadden. But she didn’t hear from them for months and only learned of the plea agreement once it was a done deal. She said she never got a chance to describe what had happened to her to the judge.

Vance’s office has defended Hadden’s plea deal.

“We stand by our legal analysis and resulting disposition of this difficult case,” said Frost, who added his office regrets the pain the deal may have caused Hadden’s victims. “Because a conviction is never a guaranteed outcome in a criminal trial, our primary concern was holding him accountable and making sure he could never do this again – which is why we insisted on a felony conviction and permanent surrender of his medical license.”

Manhattan DA Cy Vance.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance.

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Manhattan DA Cy Vance.
AP/Shutterstock

Last month, advocates — including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and two of Haddens’ former patients who say they were assaulted by him — called on Vance to step down in two separate press conferences.

Attorney Anthony DiPietro is currently representing more than 30 women who allege Hadden assaulted them during their appointments. DiPietro said some of his clients were incorrectly told by the district attorney’s office that their cases were outside the statute of limitations. Others, he said, were not allowed to give witness impact statements to the judge before Hadden was sentenced, even though they were prepared to do so.

The calls for Vance to step down come at a pivotal time. Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial, currently underway in Manhattan Criminal Court, is also being handled by his office, offering the district attorney a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of advocates — if the prosecution proves successful. Vance reopened a probe into Weinstein’s conduct following investigative reporting from the New York Times and the New Yorker about Weinstein, spurring the start of the #metoo movement.

But in that case, too, Vance had previously declined to prosecute the disgraced media mogul back in 2015 for allegedly groping Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, despite the fact that she provided investigators with a recording of Weinstein apologizing for the assault. In 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered then-state attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate Vance’s handling of that case. A spokeswoman for Cuomo deferred to State Attorney Letitia James’ office for comment; a spokesman for James declined to comment on the status of that investigation.

Beyond Weinstein, critics point to the cases like Jeffrey Epstein, where Vance’s office argued for a reduced sex-offender status; the collapse of the sexual assault case against French diplomat Dominque Strauss-Kahn; and the Trump siblings (who Vance also declined to prosecute in 2012 for potentially fraudlent business practices) as further evidence it’s time for Vance to go. In some of those cases, wealthy defendants were represented by attorneys who had donated to his campaign coffers.

Frost, Vance’s spokesman, pointed to a 2018 audit of Vance’s fundraising practices and a subsequent commitment to stop accepting contributions from lawyers who have cases before his office.

Meanwhile, a string of rivals are already lining up to oust Vance, who’s held office since 2010. Among them are civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushie; attorney Janos Marton, who worked on Cuomo’s Moreland Commission and the Close Rikers campaigns; Alvin Bragg, who worked most recently as the Chief Deputy Attorney General in New York’s AG’s office; and Assemblyman Dan Quart. Quart, Bragg and Marton raised more money more in the last six months than Vance did, The City first reported.

But Vance has yet to say whether or not he’ll seek re-election in 2021. Anna Durret, a spokeswoman for Vance’s campaign, confirmed he hasn’t decided yet.

“With the race still a year-and-a-half away, DA Vance is focused on continuing to make New York City’s justice system fairer, more efficient, and more effective for all New Yorkers,” she said. “Throughout his career, DA Vance is continuing to reduce crime to historic lows, while also moving our criminal justice system forward.”

Correction: A previous version of this story omitted Assemblyman Dan Quart as one of the candidates planning to campaign for Manhattan D.A.