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Time’s Up, the legal defense fund and advocacy group established to fight harassment and gender inequality in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, has written an open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate the state’s handling of historical sexual harassment and assault allegations made against the disgraced movie mogul.
In the letter, which was first published in New York magazine’s The Cut, the Time’s Up movement said it’s looking to Cuomo to “launch an independent investigation of the New York County District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, and the office of the District Attorney to determine the facts related to the decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for sexual abuse crimes against one of his accusers, [Amber Battilana Gutierrez.]”
Battilana Gutierrez alleged that during a 2015 meeting with Weinstein the producer had sexually harassed her. She immediately reported the assault to the NYPD Special Victims Division, whose officers convinced her to meet with Weinstein a second time and record their interaction with the help of undercover officers.
After two weeks of investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office decided not to file charges. At the time, the D.A.’s statement read: “This case was taken seriously from the outset, with a thorough investigation conducted by our Sex Crimes Unit. After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported.”
Later on Monday, the official Manhattan DA Twitter account posted a message from spokesperson Danny Frost. “We have great admiration for Time’s Up and for the courageous women and men who have brought about a long-overdue reckoning with decades of intolerable sexual abuse,” he writes. “Our commitment to justice in these cases is unwavering and we welcome the engagement that powerful advocates like Time’s Up have brought to this work.”
“As has been widely reported,” he continues in the tweet, “our investigation of Mr. Weinstein is active and ongoing. It would therefor be inappropriate to comment further.”
Last October, The New Yorker published the recording obtained from the NYPD sting operation, where Weinstein can be heard admitting to groping Battilana Gutierrez. In the taped conversation, Weinstein asks her to join him and warns, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”
The International Business Times reported that in the months after the 2015 charges against Weinstein were dropped, he donated $10,000 to Vance’s political campaign.
Hollywood activists like Brie Larson took to Twitter to spread the open letter, which can be read in full below.
TIME’S UP calls for Investigation of NY District Attorney Cyrus Vance
TIME’S Up, a global organization dedicated to ending workplace sexual harassment and abuse, calls on the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to launch an independent investigation of the New York County District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, and the office of the District Attorney to determine the facts related to the decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for sexual abuse crimes against one of his accusers, Amber Battilana.
Reports that District Attorney Cyrus Vance could have been improperly influenced by Mr. Weinstein and/or his representatives, and that senior officials within the DA’s office may have sought to intimidate Battilana are particularly disturbing and merit investigation. Similarly, reports that the New York Police Department chose to isolate Battilana from Vance’s staff because they feared his office was actively working to discredit her story demand immediate scrutiny.
An independent investigation into the full decision-making process in this case, including a full review of the correspondence within the office and with any representatives for Mr. Weinstein, must be undertaken immediately to ensure that prosecutorial integrity was maintained and to restore faith in the DA’s office.
We are concerned that what appears to be the negative relationship between the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Special Victims Unit of the NYPD makes it even less likely that victims who have been assaulted by rich or powerful men will be willing to come forward and that their assailants will be prosecuted and convicted.
Greater awareness of sexual abuse crimes is essential, but it is hollow and can even be a deterrent if survivors cannot access justice through fair and unbiased prosecution.
Given the multitude of credible reports of Mr. Weinstein’s behaviors after the DA’s decision not to prosecute in this case, arguably his continued victimization of others could have been avoided.
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.
March 19, 12 p.m.: Updated to include Vance’s tweet.
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