Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who acted as the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 to 2017, was arrested Friday on a sex abuse charge in connection with an October 2017 incident, The New York Times and several other outlets are reporting.
Frieden, 57, turned himself into the NYPD’s Special Victims Division in Brooklyn after a 55-year-old woman came forward to the police in July and reported that Frieden grabbed her buttocks against her will on Oct. 20 at his residence on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.
According to the New York Post, the two have known each other for more than two decades, though they were believed to have been just acquaintances. The woman and another couple reportedly went to Frieden’s apartment at 180 Montague Street for a dinner party. As things were wrapping up and people were leaving, Frieden reached over and grabbed the woman without her consent.
“This allegation does not reflect Dr. Frieden’s public or private behavior or his values over a lifetime of service to improve health around the world,” a spokeswoman for Frieden told CNN.
Frieden was taken into custody at the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights and was expected to appear before a judge in Kings County Criminal Court later on Friday. In addition to sexual abuse in the third degree, Frieden was also charged with forcible touching and harassment, police said as per The Times report.
Frieden kept his head down and didn’t address reporters as he was walked from S.V.D. into a squad car, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Appointed by President Barack Obama, Frieden came in during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and led the agency through the Ebola crisis in 2014. When Obama tapped Frieden for the CDC, he praised him as “an expert in preparedness and response to health emergencies” who as the New York City health commissioner said had been “at the forefront of the fight against heart disease, cancer and obesity, infectious diseases such such as tuberculosis and AIDS, and in the establishment of electronic health records,” according to the CNN report.
As head of city’s health commission, Frieden is best known for the smoke ban in bars and restaurants as part of an anti-cigarette campaign that cut the number of smokers in the city. He also banned trans fats in food, pushed for calorie information on menus and supported the distribution of free condoms.
Frieden stepped down from the agency in January 2017 and went on to head a health initiative that focuses on heart health and epidemic preparedness. He had served as New York City’s health commissioner from 2002 to 2009 under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.