NYPD, prosecutors point fingers over Harvey Weinstein investigation
Posted October 11, 2017 8:59 a.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2017 3:04 a.m. EDT
(CNN) — The explosive sexual harassment and sexual assault accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein aren't just roiling Hollywood. They're also shaking up the New York City criminal justice system.
The New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney's office traded public finger-pointing on Tuesday in response to questions about why Weinstein was not charged with a crime after a 2015 sting operation recorded him making potentially incriminating comments to a young woman.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. accused the NYPD of providing "insufficient" evidence to prove a crime, while the police department defended its techniques and investigation.
Weinstein, the studio executive and political power broker, is facing allegations of rape, unwanted touching and assault by a number of women, including accusations of sexual harassment by actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, in recent stories published in The New York Times and The New Yorker.
The sting operation
A story Tuesday in The New Yorker accuses Weinstein of rape by multiple women and includes an audio recording of Weinstein speaking with Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a young model, as part of a sting operation. The NYPD set up the sting after Gutierrez told authorities that Weinstein groped her the day before.
Gutierrez, wearing a recording device, met up with Weinstein at a hotel in Manhattan. On the tape, Weinstein can be heard repeatedly telling Gutierrez to come inside his hotel room. She repeatedly rebuffs his requests and says she is not comfortable doing so.
At one point, Gutierrez asks him, "Why yesterday (did) you touch my breast?"
"Oh please, I'm sorry, just come on in. I'm used to that," he responds.
"You're used to that?" she says.
"Yes, come in," he says.
"No, but I'm not used to that," she says.
"I won't do it again," he says.
Weinstein's representatives said they have no comment on the tape.
Despite the tape, Weinstein was not arrested or charged with any wrongdoing at the time.
"After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported," the District Attorney's Office said at the time, according to The New Yorker.
NYPD sources told CNN the department has no open investigations into Weinstein's actions and no additional victims have come forward with accusations against him.
The sources also said there are a number of reasons why the case will not be reopened, one being that the statute of limitations for what could have been a misdemeanor offense has expired.
A representative for Weinstein released a statement denying any accusations of rape.
"Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances," the statement said.
"Mr. Weinstein obviously can't speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance."
So why no criminal charges?
So why did Weinstein not face charges?
On Tuesday, after The New Yorker published that audio, the Manhattan District Attorney's office released a statement implying that the NYPD had dropped the ball in its investigation.
The NYPD arranged the sting "without our knowledge or input" and did not give prosecutors "the opportunity before the meeting to counsel investigators" on what was needed to prove a misdemeanor sex crime, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilo.
"While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent," Friedman Agnifilo said in the statement.
"Subsequent investigative steps undertaken in order to establish intent were not successful. This, coupled with other proof issues, meant that there was no choice but to conclude the investigation without criminal charges."
Friedman Agnifilo said Weinstein's reported pattern of mistreating women is "disgraceful and shocks the conscience."
"If we could have prosecuted Harvey Weinstein for the conduct that occurred in 2015, we would have," she said.
NYPD defends its actions
But the NYPD took issue with that characterization of their investigation, saying in a statement that the case was carried out by experienced detectives and supervisors from the department's Special Victims Unit.
"The detectives used well-established investigative techniques. The recorded conversation with the subject corroborates the acts that were the basis for the victim's complaint to the police a day earlier," the NYPD said.
"This follow-up recorded conversation was just one aspect of the case against the subject. This evidence, along with other statements and timeline information, was presented to the office of the Manhattan District Attorney."
In addition, Vance's office has faced criticism for accepting a $10,000 donation from David Boies, an attorney for Weinstein, in August 2015 -- four months after the decision not to press charges, according to campaign financial disclosure forms from the New York State Board of Elections.
However, Vance campaign spokesperson Stephen Sigmund said in a statement that Boies was not Weinstein's lawyer in that criminal case.
"Mr. Boies has been a longtime supporter of Cy Vance, both well before 2015 and well after. His contributions, like those of any other contributor, do not and never will influence the work of the DA s office," the statement said.
The disclosure form also shows that Boies donated $15,000 to Vance's campaign in 2013, $10,000 in 2011 and $20,000 in 2008.
A spokesman for his law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, said Boies has never represented Weinstein in a criminal matter.
"David has contributed to District Attorney Vance for many years, long before Mr. Weinstein was investigated, because he believed that Mr. Vance would be, and is, a great DA," the spokesperson said. "Neither David nor anyone in his office ever spoke to anyone in Mr. Vance's office about Harvey Weinstein."
Vance told reporters Wednesday that his office's decision not to press charges was guided by a recommendation from the head of the Sex Crimes Unit and had nothing to do with any donations.
"No contribution ever in my seven years of (being) District Attorney has ever had any impact on my decision making in a case," Vance said.
In his decades at Miramax and the Weinstein Company, Weinstein produced such Oscar-winning movies as "Pulp Fiction," "Shakespeare in Love" and "The English Patient." He was fired from the film company he co-founded on Sunday.