That’s according to a new lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast, in which former State Sen. Thomas Duane—also the first openly HIV-positive member of the legislative body—says Dr. Nathan Mitkoff of the Albany Medical Center ground his genitals against his thigh during a check-up in 2004. He alleges the disturbing incident “made his recovery from substance abuse more difficult and his ongoing need for psychological therapy more pressing.”
Duane, 68, served in the State Senate from 1999 to 2012, following a six-year stint on the New York City Council. He represented Manhattan’s 29th District, which spans from the Upper West Side to Greenwich Village, and across town to the East Village. Duane, a Democrat, took the lead in allowing same-sex couples to marry, introduced legislation requiring insurance companies to cover mental health treatment, and was known around town as a vocal champion for tenants’ rights. He stepped down from his position after 14 years, saying he had grown tired of the commute between New York City and Albany.
Duane is suing under the state’s Adult Survivors Act, which opened a one-year “lookback window” to bring civil sex assault claims which would otherwise have expired under the statute of limitations. Victims have until Nov. 23 to file a claim.
“Our client’s complaint lays out serious allegations of improper conduct and a betrayal of trust by a doctor and the medical system that hired and supervised him,” Duane’s lawyer, Lesley Brovner, of Peters Brovner LLP, told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “This case is an example of the profound importance of the Adult Survivors Act. The ASA has been a powerful tool in holding perpetrators of sexual abuse accountable. No one should have to suffer this type of abuse without redress. Our client looks forward to having his day in court.”
Albany Med spokesman Matt Markham said of Duane’s allegations, “We cannot comment on pending litigation.”
In the lawsuit, which was filed late Wednesday, Duane says that shortly after he was elected, Senate staff informed him he needed to get examined by a doctor at Albany Medical Center. He was told that this “was a requirement for all State Senators,” the suit states.
“[Duane] initially resisted getting such a physical as he had his own doctors in New York City and did not see the need for a second set of doctors in Albany,” it continues. “Staff at the Senate continued to insist that he have such a physical and finally, in 2004, [Duane] relented.”
On March 23, 2004, Duane showed up at Albany Med to get checked out. After completing blood work and a stress test, Duane was shown into an examination room, handed a hospital gown, and told to undress, the suit states. Mitkoff then entered the room and gave Duane a full physical.
“After concluding the physical examination, while [Duane] was still unclothed except for his hospital gown, Mitkoff asked questions about [Duane’s] history including detailed questions about [his] sexual history,” the lawsuit states. “Immediately after [Duane] answered these questions, Mitkoff developed an obvious erection and then came closer to [him] and proceeded to thrust his (Mitkoff’s) erect penis against [Duane’s] unclothed thigh.”
The suit says Mitkoff “prolonged the act of pushing his erect penis against [Duane’s] thigh, making it clear that this was done for sexual gratification and/or to degrade or abuse [Duane].”
Mitkoff eventually left the room, and Duane has not seen or spoken with him since, according to the suit, which notes that Duane “in no way invited or consented to this sexual contact.” That same day, Duane says he notified his top legislative aide about what had happened, and “described both the incident and the shock and emotional pain this had caused him.”
Albany Med “knew or should have known that Mitkoff was a danger to his patients,” Duane’s suit argues. It says past sexual assaults had occurred there, and that hospital officials did not properly screen and supervise staff to prevent them from continuing.
“The abuse has caused [Duane] considerable mental and psychological anguish,” the lawsuit contends. “For example, to this day, [Duane] has intrusive memories of the abuse which cause him serious emotional distress. The abuse also makes him more reluctant to seek medical care and far more anxious when he does.”
Additionally, Duane says the alleged assault has hampered his recovery from alcohol and drugs, and has intensified his mental health issues.
Duane is asking for punitive and compensatory damages to be determined at trial. His attorneys, Lesley Brovner and Mark Peters, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Thursday. Mitkoff does not have a lawyer listed in court records and was unable to be reached directly.