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Former Head of US Health Agency Arrested on Sexual Abuse Charge


Thomas Frieden, center, leaves Brooklyn federal court, Aug. 24, 2018, in New York. Frieden is the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who helped contain the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, was arrested in New York City on Friday after being accused of groping a woman last year, police said.

Thomas Frieden, who once served as the city's health commissioner, turned himself into a Brooklyn police station, said New York City Police Department spokeswoman Arlene Muniz. He was arrested on charges of sexual abuse, forcible touching and harassment.

A 55-year-old woman filed a complaint against Frieden in July, accusing him of grabbing her buttocks without permission last October at his Brooklyn Heights apartment, Muniz said. The woman’s name was not divulged.

Frieden, 57, remained in custody on Friday, Muniz said. He was due to make an initial appearance in Brooklyn criminal court on Friday, the district attorney's office said.

It was not clear if he was represented by a lawyer.

Frieden had a prominent role in helping respond to the outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa in 2014 and Zika fever that began in Brazil in 2015.

As New York City’s health commissioner from 2002 to 2009, he oversaw efforts to ban smoking in public places. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to head the CDC, the country's main public health agency. He stepped down in 2017.

After leaving government, Frieden became the president of Resolve to Save Lives, an effort by the non-profit health organization Vital Strategies to improve public health systems around the world that is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the charity run by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, said in a statement that the organization was “disturbed and saddened” by the charges.

“At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we take any allegation of personal misconduct very seriously and are monitoring the situation closely,” the statement said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it took allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously.

“We will be in touch with our grantee Vital Strategies to understand how they are handling this situation,” the Foundation said in a statement.

A number of prominent men in entertainment, business and politics in the United States have been accused over the past year of sexual misconduct in what has become known as the #MeToo movement.

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