CNN obtained a letter from a former patient of Robert Hadden, the former Columbia University gynecologist.
The 1994 letter was addressed to Columbia University officials and detailed allegations of abuse during appointments with Hadden.
Rebecca Rose Woodland, a litigator and legal analyst, joined TheStreet following CNN's report to break down what the letter means for Columbia.
In an email to TheStreet, Columbia University said in a statement, "We are deeply disturbed by the accounts of Robert Hadden’s behavior that are now emerging. At the time of Hadden’s 2012 arrest, we did not know about the 1994 letter. Had we been aware of it, we would have shared that information with the District Attorney’s office. We are fully cooperating with the new investigation and are committed to following the truth wherever it leads."
KATHERINE ROSS: New developments and the ongoing saga surrounding former Columbia gynecologist, Dr. Robert Hadden. Joining us to discuss as Rebecca Rose Woodland, litigator and legal analyst. Rebecca, a lot has happened since our last conversation. Can you bring our audience up to speed on what's going on?
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: Absolutely, Katherine. There's been a lot happened over the weekend. In what I think is an unbelievable stroke of luck for the victims, their attorneys, the women who allege abuse, one of the patients of Dr. Hadden uncovered a letter that she wrote directly to Columbia University Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and uncovered a return letter to her. Now in her letter to the college and the university was an indication that Dr. Hadden had in many ways, without going into detail, sexually abused her, that she felt her examination was completely inappropriate, and was what she would consider, not a normal gynecological examination, that it raised to a different level.
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: She received a return letter in 1994 that she kept in her basement, and the return letter was from the head of the department at Columbia University, which acknowledged her letter and acknowledged the need for a followup. So it was her assumption that something would be done, and nothing ever was done, and apparently Dr. Hadden continued on until 2016, when he was prosecuted and pled guilty to the charges, and gave up his medical license. So it's almost unbelievable that in 1994 someone at the university was on notice, and failed to do anything with a doctor that was abusing women.
KATHERINE ROSS: For full disclosure, Rebecca is representing Emilia Heckman. Emilia recently came out and spoke to CNN about her experiences with Dr. Hadden. Emilia is the wife of James Heckman, founder and CEO of Maven. Maven is the parent company of The Street, and operate Sports Illustrated. Rebecca, I want to talk about the legal obligations of employers. I'm thinking about some of the other cases that we've seen over the past couple of years. How are employers responsible when an employee allegedly league commits an offense like this?
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: So those are really good questions, and we can look back at some cases that we've seen that have already been handled. We see Penn State, Sandusky. We see University of Southern California. We see that the gymnastics group and Michigan State. What you'll find there in those cases, where the district attorneys and the special prosecutors have already gone in, done investigations, indicted people, that oftentimes employees of the universities, and employees at the places where there is victimization going on have been found to cover up or obstruct justice. And we've seen that now in a pattern. So what I would hope to see is that universities, employers, it doesn't only have to be a collegiate environment, anywhere that their attorneys and the heads of these companies encourage people to come forward, encourage full investigations immediately.
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: And if there is any finding, I mean, full investigations that are independent of the organization, and any finding, take appropriate action immediately, so that there is no coverup, there is no obstruction of justice over the course of years. This is where you find yourself in quite a bad situation, because these are criminal proceedings. When someone is abusing someone sexually, that's against the law. So enabling that by covering it up, or not giving information to the prosecution is a crime as well.
KATHERINE ROSS: Let's focus on one situation, and right now let's say that you were counsel to Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal. What would you have advised Penn State to do at that point?
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: Wow. If I were representing Penn State at the time the scandal broke ... So at the time the scandal broke, we've now, to backtrack, we know that there was a pattern and a history. What I would suggest is you immediately come forward, take responsibility for the actions of whomever is within your control, admit what happened, and put immediate measures in place so that this never happens again. Call in people, have the whole business reworked, have the university reworked, whatever it is, so that you can ensure that victims have a place to openly speak and make a complaint, and that if there is someone victimizing them, they're immediately referred to the police. They're told what's happening, and they're taken off staff.
KATHERINE ROSS: So when you say victims, you mean people who have come forward to say that a crime has allegedly taken place, correct?
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: Yes. So I'm talking in the larger scope. I'm talking about someone who claims they've been the victim of a crime. They claim that a crime has been committed unto them, yes.
KATHERINE ROSS: Thank you for clarifying.
REBECCA ROSE WOODLAND: Sure.
KATHERINE ROSS: And thank you for joining us today.