New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered the attorney general to investigate the handling of allegations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Cuomo made the announcement Monday evening after pressure from the Time’s Up organization calling for a probe into New York‘s District Attorney after he failed to prosecute Weinstein in a sexual assault case.
Italian model Ambra Battilana accused the disgraced producer of groping her in his Manhattan office in 2015. She was 22 years old at the time.
But, despite the fact that the New York Police Department had recorded proof, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr decided not to go forward with the case.
In a statement Cuomo said: ‘It is of great concern that sexual assault cases have not been pursued with full vigor by our criminal justice system.
‘Specifically, there are questions about the handling of the 2015 sexual assault case of Ms. Ambra Battilana against Harvey Weinstein. The Manhattan District Attorney is currently in the midst of a separate investigation, which involves witnesses and facts from the 2015 case.’
The Time’s Up organization is fighting for an investigation into New York’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr (left) after he failed to prosecute Ambra Battilana’s (right) case against Harvey Weinstein in 2015
Battilana accused the disgraced producer of groping her in his Manhattan office. She was 22 years old at the time
‘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.
‘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.’
The Time’s Up group had said in a letter to Cuomo obtained by Variety: ‘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.’
The organization, which is being led by the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes, said it is concerned by the ‘negative relationship between the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan DA’s Office and the Special Victims Unit of the NYPD’.
‘[It] 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,’ the statement reads.
‘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.’
Special Victims Division commander Michael Osgood was so concerned that the DA office would derail the case that he booked Battilana (pictured) into several different Manhattan hotels
A New York Magazine article revealed that Special Victims Division commander Michael Osgood was so concerned about the case that he booked Battilana into several Manhattan hotels under different aliases.
Osgood’s decision came after the DA – led by Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney Office – began to conduct their own investigation.
The NYPD found out that the DA office had interviewed Battilana’s roommates and asked questions such as if she worked as a prostitute or a stripper.
The NYPD thought they had a bulletproof case against Weinstein after setting up a meeting between the producer and Battilana at the Tribeca Grand Hotel (pictured)
It was there that detectives heard Weinstein yet again admit to grabbing Battilana’s breasts and heard the married producer try to convince the model to come into a hotel room
‘Osgood believed that Vance and his office were actively working to discredit Battilana,’ the article reads.
‘The police decided she needed protection – not only from her alleged assailant, but from the elected official responsible for prosecuting him.’
Danny Frost, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, claimed the New York Magazine article ‘bears little resemblance to the facts’.
‘The idea that our Office would shrink from the challenge of prosecuting a powerful man is belied by our daily work and unparalleled record of success on behalf of sexual assault survivors,’ Frost said in a statement.
‘Police and prosecutors play different roles in the justice system. Police evaluate arrests based on probable causes, 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.’
Frost said the DA had ‘great admiration for Time’s Up’ and that the office’s ‘commitment to justice in these cases is unwavering’.
‘We welcome the engagement that powerful advocates like Time’s Up have brought to this work,’ the statement continued.
‘Our investigation of Mr Weinstein is active and ongoing. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further.’
Once Weinstein heard Battilana had filed a formal complaint, he hired attorneys that had direct ties to Vance and Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney Office (pictured together)
One of those lawyers was Linda Fairstein, who was a close friend to Bashford (pictured together) and the former head of the DA’s Sex Crimes Unit
The NYPD’s Sexual Victims Unit thought it had a bulletproof case on Weinstein before the DA got wind of the allegations, according to the New York Magazine article.
Battilana reported Weinstein the very day of the assault, arriving at the NYPD’s 9th Precinct House in a flood of tears on March 27, 2015.
She made a formal complaint that she had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein, who she said had groped her during what was supposed to be a business meeting.
Weinstein also hired Elkan Abramowitz (pictured), Vance’s former law partner who had donated to his DA campaign
Battilana told police that Weinstein had groped her breasts with both hands and then ‘put a hand on her left thigh, moved it up her skirt, and asked for a kiss’.
When she told Weinstein to stop, he bragged that he could make her $2million a year.
Weinstein got Battilana a ticket to Finding Neverland on Broadway that night.
When Battilana didn’t show up, he sent an email to the model asking where she was.
A detective who was with Battilana when the email arrived told her to set up a phone call with Weinstein and instructed her to ask him, ‘How did my breasts feel?’
‘They felt beautiful,’ Weinstein replied. ‘They’re great.’
The NYPD then had Battilana set up a meeting with Weinstein at the Tribeca Grand Hotel the next day at 1pm.
It was there that detectives heard Weinstein yet again admit to grabbing Battilana’s breasts. The married producer also tried to convince the model to come into a hotel room he had purchased for the meeting.
After Battilana left the hotel, Weinstein was taken to the precinct, all the while threatening the detectives that they were putting their jobs ‘in jeopardy’.
Once Weinstein heard Battilana had filed a formal complaint, he hired attorneys Elkan Abramowitz and Linda Farstein.
Both had direct ties to the DA office: Abramowitz was Vance’s former law partner and had donated to his DA campaign. Farstein, the former head of the DA’s Sex Crimes Unit, was a close friend to Bashford.
Time’s Up is asking that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured) launch an independent investigation into the ‘full-decision-making process’ of Battilana’s case
Battilana did eventually meet with Bashford, who the NYPD said went on an ‘aggressive and accusatory’ line of questioning.
A representative for Vance denies the questioning was aggressive, saying it was standard protocol to cross examine a complainant.
Three days after the interview, Bashford told Osgood that Vance had decided not to prosecute the case.
It was a decision that baffled the unit, according to now-retired SVD sergeant Michael Bock.
‘They prosecute people for misdemeanors with far less probable cause than this. We gave them beyond reasonable doubt,’ he said.
‘We obviously know who this man is. We obviously know we have a different burden of proof. So to go above and beyond as we did, he should have been arrested.’
A task force in the SVU has since been working full-time sine October on the complaints another 14 women have filed against Weinstein.
Battilana, 24, is getting back to work after her name was cleared when dozens of women came forward to accuse Weinstein of harassment and sexual assault last September
Osgood decided to personally conduct each investigation after what happened with Battilana.
It will now once again fall to Vance to decide if Weinstein should be indicted.
Meanwhile, Battilana, 24, is getting back to work after her name was cleared when dozens of women came forward to accuse Weinstein of harassment and sexual assault last September.
Battilana is now back on the scene and was snapped on Miami Beach on Monday during a bikini shoot.
The model, who appeared at her first catwalk in years last month, says she is just glad to be able to work again without Weinstein’s black mark hanging over her.
‘I’m very happy because it was two, maybe three years where I wasn’t working with big designers because my reputation was so bad,’ Battilana told New York Daily News.
‘People don’t realize what (Weinstein) did to me and his other victims,’ she said. ‘He was very powerful.’