By Robert Brodsky

Former New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will not face criminal charges in connection with allegations of physical abuse brought by several women he dated, a special prosecutor said Thursday.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, was accused of assaulting four past romantic partners and using his office to threaten or harass the women. Among the allegations was a claim Schneiderman slapped a woman in 2016 at a home in the Hamptons.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat appointed in May by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate the allegations, said in a statement that she believed the women but that "legal impediments, including statutes of limitations, preclude criminal prosecution."

The statute of limitations in New York State is one year for a criminal violation, two years for a misdemeanor and five years for a felony.

Schneiderman Thursday apologized for his conduct.

"I recognize that District Attorney Singas' decision not to prosecute does not mean I have done nothing wrong," he said in a statement. "I accept full responsibility for my conduct in my relationships with my accusers, and for the impact it had on them. After spending time in a rehab facility, I am committed to a lifelong path of recovery and making amends to those I have harmed.."

A Schneiderman spokeswoman declined to describe the type of rehab facility he entered.

Schneiderman, 63, served seven years as the state's top law enforcement officer and was a rising star in the Democratic Party. He was a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and frequently did battle with President Donald Trump.

But Schneiderman resigned within hours of a May New Yorker magazine article that laid out the allegations. At the time, Schneiderman denied abusing the women, contending they had been role-playing with him.

Singas spokeswoman Miriam Sholder confirmed that investigators interviewed activist Michelle Manning Barish and artist Tanya Selvaratnam -- the  women identified in the magazine article -- and others they had identified through the investigation. Two other women talked to the magazine but asked to remain anonymous, fearing reprisals.

"Our team interviewed members of Mr. Schneiderman's security detail, employees of the Office of the Attorney General, potential witnesses identified during the pendency of our investigation, and we followed-up on each call to the tip line we established for this matter," said Singas, adding that she found no misconduct by Schneiderman's government staff.

Sholder said: "We followed every lead generated by our interviews and investigative work, as well as every tip received to the hotline we established."

The women accused Schneiderman of nonconsensual physical violence and said he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. In the article, Manning Barish recalled Schneiderman pinning her on a bed and choking her and being slapped so hard that it left her ears ringing.

In tweets Thursday, Manning Barish said she felt "vindicated" by Schneiderman's admission. "This is a victory for all women but we need more than words," she wrote on Twitter. "A crucial next step will be for Schneiderman to turn over all campaign contributions -- which we understand to be over $8.5 M -- to groups that combat sexual violence against women and protect those who are harmed."

Schneiderman had $8.5 million in his re-election fund at the beginning of 2018, but state Board of Elections records show his account is down to $7.4 million.

Singas Thursday proposed new state legislation Thursday to allow prosecutors to charge anyone who slaps, punches, shoves or kicks a person without consent for sexual gratification. Those convicted of the class A misdemeanor could face up to a year in jail.

"This legislation fills a gap in the law that is essential to properly sanction sexually-motivated violence that may leave the victims with deep emotional wounds, even if they do not sustain physical injuries," said Singas.

Under existing law, a perpetrator who slaps, shoves or kicks a victim but does not cause physical injury could face a third-degree harassment charge only if the intent is to "alarm, harass or annoy" the victim, Singas said, but not if the intent is sexual gratification.

In a statement, Selvaratnam endorsed the bill. "This experience underscores the need for legislation addressing intimate violence so all of those who experience it can come forward knowing they have protection under the law," she said.

In February, Schneiderman announced he was filing a civil rights lawsuit against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein over alleged sexual assault. And in May, Schneiderman opened an investigation into how Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. handled past complaints against Weinstein.

"Mr. Schneiderman is yet another powerful man who hasn't been held accountable in a court of law for his abuse of women," Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York, said in a statement. "The statute of limitations ran out on some of the charges, we will work with the legislature to strengthen laws so that some of these abuses are punishable."

The current attorney general, Democrat Barbara Underwood, was appointed after Schneiderman resigned. Democrat Letitia James, who won Tuesday's election for the post, takes office in January.

With Michael Gormley and Yancey Roy

(c)2018 Newsday