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‘Time's Up’ Wants Cuomo To Investigate Manhattan DA's Handling Of Weinstein Case

March 19, 2018 - 1:51 pm

NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) -- Time's Up, an initiative started by a powerhouse group of Hollywood industry women to fight systemic sexual harassment, called Monday for New York's governor to investigate the Manhattan district attorney's office over a decision in 2015 not to prosecute a sex abuse case against Harvey Weinstein. 
In a statement, the group says a report in New York magazine is disturbing because it suggests 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. 
"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,'' the statement says. 
The 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 wasn't enough proof and didn't 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'd presented enough evidence.

Cuomo’s office issued a statement late Monday saying the New York Attorney General’s office will launch its own review of the 2015 case.

“The Manhattan District Attorney at this point believes this current investigation will be completed within approximately 45 days. 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 the statement. “Therefore, I have directed the Attorney General to begin a review of the 2015 case in a way that does not interfere with the current investigation and, at the conclusion of the Manhattan District Attorney's current investigation, to review the entire matter and report to me on its findings. Based on these findings we will decide what further actions may be necessary.”

Cuomo said sexual assault and harassment must not be tolerated.

"The recent revelations about sexual assault and harassment pervasive in our society are most disturbing,” Cuomo said in the statement. “We are leading the way forward with the nation's most comprehensive reform package. This behavior must end."

Meanwhile. 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.
Police and prosecutors play different roles, Frost said. Disagreements happen, but they don't undermine justice, he said.
"Police evaluate arrests based on probable cause, whereas prosecutors must make sure they can prove to a jury that every element of a criminal statute was violated beyond a reasonable doubt -- a much higher standard,'' he said.
Weinstein's attorneys have said he denies any non-consensual sexual contact. 
Since scores of new allegations against Weinstein surfaced, 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 for 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. Frost said the case is still under active investigation. 
The Time's Up statement says 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.