New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a rare order for the state attorney general to investigate the Manhattan district attorney’s handling of a 2015 case in which Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct but ultimately not charged with a crime.
In a statement issued on Monday, Cuomo said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will review the Manhattan DA’s investigation into allegations by Ambra Battilana Gutierrez that Weinstein groped her during a meeting at his office.
After weathering months of criticism over how his office handled the Gutierrez case, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said his office would reinvestigate the Gutierrez matter and that his renewed probe should be wrapped up within about six weeks.
Cuomo said Schneiderman would conduct a limited review of the Gutierrez case while Vance’s investigation is underway so as not to interfere with the DA’s work, but said the probe would expand after Vance’s work is complete.
“The recent revelations about sexual assault and harassment pervasive in our society are most disturbing,” Cuomo said. “We are leading the way forward with the nation’s most comprehensive reform package. This behavior must end.”
Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance’s office, said in an email the office expects that Schneiderman will find it has been “guided solely by the facts and the law.”
“We are confident that any review will confirm that our office has pursued its investigation without fear or favor, based on the merits alone,” Frost said.
Cuomo’s directive is only the second time in his eight-year tenure that he has ordered a probe into a DA’s handling of a case.
In 2016, Cuomo issued an executive order directing Schneiderman to investigate Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove’s office and its handling of the deadly shooting of Edson Thevenin at the hands of police officers in Troy.
In December, Abelove was indicted on two counts of official misconduct and one count of perjury, accusing him of withholding evidence from a grand jury and lying under oath.
With respect to the investigation into Vance’s handling of the Weinstein matter, Schneiderman said in a statement issued by a spokeswoman that his office is familiar with Weinstein’s history of “egregious sexual abuse,” noting that his office has a pending civil rights complaint against Weinstein; his brother, Robert Weinstein; and the Weinstein Co.
“We are committed to pursuing a full, fair, and independent review of this matter,” Schneiderman said.
On Friday, New York magazine published an article on the Gutierrez case detailing the investigation into the Italian model’s allegations after she reported Weinstein’s attack to the New York City Police Department.
After the attack, Weinstein sent Gutierrez away with tickets to a Broadway show. Detectives had her wear a wire to the show, and could allegedly hear Weinstein admitting that he had grabbed Gutierrez’s breasts. He could be heard making the admission again in a subsequent meeting between Weinstein and Gutierrez at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, as well as trying to force her into a hotel room.
The article painted a picture of dysfunction between Vance’s office and the NYPD’s Special Victims Division over the handling of the Gutierrez case, with investigators saying they believed Vance’s prosecutors actively worked to scuttle the investigation and that Martha Bashford, head of the Manhattan DA’s sex crimes unit, subjected Gutierrez and her roommates to aggressive questioning.
On Monday, Vance and Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a joint statement that the article did not accurately portray the partnership between the two offices on cases involving sexual violence.
“We will continue working collaboratively and professionally to deliver justice to victims of crime in Manhattan,” the statement reads. “From time to time we’ll have our disagreements, but we will never allow them to undermine this shared endeavor.”
The Weinstein Co. filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware late on Monday night, and the company’s board of directors announced that, as part of its negotiations with Schneiderman’s office, as well as an effort to bring justice to victims who may have been silenced by Harvey Weinstein, it would release its employees from their nondisclosure agreements.