N.Y. Governor Cuomo Calls for Probe Into 2015 Weinstein Case
The governor has directed the state attorney general to review the 2015 decision by the Manhattan district attorney's office not to prosecute a sex abuse case against Harvey Weinstein.
New York's governor on Monday ordered the state attorney general to review a 2015 decision by Manhattan prosecutors to not pursue a sex abuse case against Harvey Weinstein.
The directive came just hours after Time's Up, an initiative started by a powerhouse group of Hollywood industry women to fight systemic sexual harassment, called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate.
In a statement, the group said a report in New York Magazine on the handling of the case was disturbing because it suggested the district attorney's office may have been improperly influenced by Weinstein and sought to intimidate an Italian model who accused the disgraced media mogul of groping her.
"It is critical not only that these cases are given the utmost attention but also that there is public confidence in the handling of these cases," Cuomo said in a statement.
Scores of new allegations against Weinstein have surfaced since last fall, and both the New York Police Department and the district attorney's office have said they are working together. But no grand jury has been convened, despite police officials saying publicly they have enough evidence to bring a case. Less than two weeks ago, the police department's chief of detectives said witnesses were ready for the grand jury — but it was up to the district attorney to decide when to convene it. Prosecutors said Monday the case was still under active investigation.
Cuomo, a Democrat, asked that the review be conducted "in a way that does not interfere with the current investigation," but added that the district attorney believes the ongoing investigation will be completed within 45 days.
The New York Magazine article centers on the case of Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. In 2015, police conducted a sting after she accused Weinstein of groping her, secretly recording Weinstein apologizing for this conduct.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. ultimately decided there was not enough proof and did not bring a case. Following criticism over the decision last year, prosecutors said police arranged the sting without their knowledge and there were other proof issues, but police pushed back saying they had presented enough evidence.
Danny Frost, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said the allegations in the magazine had "little resemblance to the facts. The office has an "unwavering" commitment to justice in such case and great admiration "for the courageous women and men who have brought about a long-overdue reckoning with decades of intolerable sexual abuse," he said.
He also said the office would provide any necessary information for the review, and was confident it would find the office acted properly.
Vance and Police Commissioner James O'Neill later released a joint statement insisting the two agencies worked collaboratively to hold sexual predators accountable.
"We will continue working collaboratively and professionally to deliver just to victims of crime," they said. "From time to time we'll have our disagreements but we will never allow them to undermine this shared endeavor."
Weinstein, who was fired as CEO of his company in October, has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.
The Time's Up statement said a prosecution of the 2015 case could have prevented other alleged sexual assaults.
"There will only be real consequences for abusive behavior when our public officials, sworn to uphold the law, care as much about the rights of the victim as concerns for the accused."
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they speak publicly, as Battilana Gutierrez has done.
Time's Up was created by about 300 women and includes the producer Shonda Rhimes and actresses Reese Witherspoon and America Ferrera.
Adding to the drama late Monday, The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy protection with a buyout offer from a private equity firm almost two weeks after negotiations to sell the company to a group of investors fell apart.
The company also announced it was releasing any victims of or witnesses to Weinstein's alleged misconduct from non-disclosure agreements preventing them from speaking out. That step had long been sought by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed a lawsuit against the company last month on behalf of its employees.