Prosecutors drop part of Harvey Weinstein case but are still ‘moving full steam ahead’
A judge in New York dismissed part of the criminal sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday. The move came after prosecutors announced in court that they wouldn’t oppose the request from lawyers for the once-powerful movie mogul.
The dismissed charge relates to Weinstein accuser Lucia Evans, the Associated Press reported. Evans had previously told the New Yorker that Weinstein had forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004.
On Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office also released a previously sealed letter it had sent to Weinstein’s lawyer in September. According to the letter, the D.A.’s office had recently learned a third-party witness gave an account to a detective, who then “failed to inform our office of important aspects of the account prior to the indictment in this case.”
Prosecutors maintain the disclosure doesn’t “impact the strength of the remaining case,” including predatory sexual assault.
“In short, we are moving full steam ahead,” said Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi. “As we do with every case, we will follow the facts of law wherever they may lead, and protect those who are preyed upon as well as the integrity of the process. Those who place their trust in us and the justice system deserve no less.”
Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman accused Evans of lying, telling reporters outside of the courthouse Thursday that “this is a very positive development. I have said from the start that sexual assault is a serious crime, but falsely accusing someone of sexual assault is also a very serious crime.”
An attorney for Evans said Thursday’s development “speaks volumes about the Manhattan DA’s office and its mishandling of my client’s case.”
“The prosecutor’s decision to abandon my client, Lucia Evans, does not invalidate the truth of her claims. It does speak to a system that needs to be reformed,” attorney Carrie Goldberg said in a statement. “The decision to throw away my client’s sexual assault charges says nothing about Weinstein’s guilt or innocence. Nor does it reflect on Lucia’s consistent allegation that she was sexually assaulted with force by Harvey Weinstein.”
Authorities arrested Weinstein in May and charged him in cases involving two women, stemming from incidents in 2013 and 2004. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bail.
Law enforcement didn’t name the women involved, but Evans, a marketing consultant and former aspiring actress, had previously described the 2004 incident with Weinstein in Miramax’s Tribeca office to the New Yorker.
Evans said in May that she would be pressing charges against Weinstein, telling the New Yorker, “At a certain point, you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind.”
In July, a Manhattan grand jury voted to charge Weinstein with additional counts of sexual assault, stemming from what prosecutors deemed a forcible sexual act against a third woman in 2006.
Weinstein was once a juggernaut in the entertainment industry until a pair of Pulitzer Prize-winning stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker published in October 2017, detailing accusations from several women. Since then, scores more have gone public with stories of intimidation, harassment and assault.
The allegations sparked a broader reckoning with sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry and beyond.
Weinstein has long denied criminal wrongdoing.
On Thursday, the district attorney’s office said in a statement that prosecutors will continue to interview witnesses and gather evidence “not only to prepare for trial, but also to determine whether there are additional complainants or incidents” for which Weinstein can be charged.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had previously come under fire for his office’s handling of a 2015 case described in the New Yorker exposé involving model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. As The Washington Post previously reported:
In October 2017, the New Yorker detailed her allegations and published audio obtained during a 2015 police sting in which Weinstein reportedly admits to groping Gutierrez as he begs her to go into his hotel room.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), citing “questions about the handling” of the case, directed the state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, to review it. (Schneiderman has since resigned after four women accused him of assault.)
Vance, reelected to a third term last year, called the governor-ordered review “an unwarranted intrusion.”