In response to pressure from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual harassment and gender inequality, Governor Cuomo ordered the New York state attorney general Monday to examine Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s handling of a 2015 assault case against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.
The District Attorney’s office investigated allegations by Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez that Weinstein had sexually assaulted her.
According to the New York Times, during the course of Vance’s investigation, Battilana worked with the NYPD Special Victims Unit to record a conversation where she asks Weinstein why he touched her breasts the previous day, and he apologizes—seeming to corroborate her accusation. Despite the audio, the DA’s office determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, that decision has been widely questioned since the New Yorker published an October exposé on Weinstein’s egregious patterns of abuse. The revelations have resulted in nearly 100 women sharing their own stories of abusive encounters with Weinstein. Several of the women are currently pursuing legal action in New York and California.
Vance’s office is responsible for investigating some of the additional Weinstein inquiries. He accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from Weinstein attorney David Boies after the DA dropped the Battilana case. Cuomo said the Battilana review, to be conducted by Eric T. Schneiderman, would not interfere with any ongoing cases currently being managed by the DA.
A spokesman for Vance said Monday, “We are confident that any review will confirm that our office has pursued its investigation without fear or favor, based on the merits alone.”
In a letter published by The Cut Sunday, “Time’s Up” organizers explicitly asked Gov. Cuomo to investigate Vance’s decision not to prosecute Weinstein.
“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,” the statement read.
Gov. Cuomo announced his decision to investigate with a statement in a press release distributed Monday.
“It is of great concern that sexual assault cases have not been pursued with full vigor by our criminal justice system.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’s announcement came the same day that Cynthia Nixon, a popular actress and activist, announced her plans to challenge him with her own candidacy for governor.
[Feature image: Harvey Weinstein/Associated Press]