The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is hitting back at an explosive New York Magazine report claiming that it failed to prosecute Harvey Weinstein in 2015 for alleged sexual harassment because of the indie mogul’s political connections.
“Survivors of sexual violence — and all who stand with them — should know that the account appearing in this week’s New York Magazine bears little resemblance to the facts,” said Danny Frost, a spokesperson for the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, in a statement.
The article is written by investigative reporter Kathy Dobie and claims that District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. was gun-shy about going after Weinstein because he had friends in the upper echelons of government, and suggests that his office may have intimidated and worked to discredit Ambra Battilana, an Italian model who claimed Weinstein groped her in a closed-door meeting.
Weinstein admitted to misconduct in a taped conversation with Battilana that was later published by the New Yorker. Despite the recordings, Vance’s office ultimately decided not to prosecute Weinstein. The D.A.’s office reopened its investigation after dozens of women stepped forward last fall to accuse Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment.
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Ben Brafman, an attorney for Weinstein, faulted the article for not mentioning that Battilana signed an affidavit stating that the alleged harassment was a “misunderstanding” and stemmed from “bad advice.”
“NY Magazine also failed to mention the fact that her Affidavit was reviewed by her and her own attorneys, including her longtime Italian lawyer before she signed it under oath,” Brafman’s statement reads. “Accordingly, any claim by Ambra that she failed to understand her own words is patently false.”
New York Magazine spokeswoman Lauren Starke responded to the comments by Brafman and Frost by stating that the publication stands by the piece.
“Nothing in their comments alters the facts of the story as we reported them,” she said in a statement.
Vance’s office is under pressure following the story. Time’s Up, an activist group launched by Hollywood players such as Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, and Natalie Portman, has called on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to launch an independent investigation into the District Attorney’s decision not to take on the 2015 case. Frost was careful to praise Time’s Up while suggesting that such a move is unwarranted.
“We have great admiration for Time’s Up, and for the courageous women and men who have brought about a long-overdue reckoning with decades of intolerable sexual abuse,” the statement reads. “Our commitment to justice in these cases is unwavering and we welcome the engagement that powerful advocates like Time’s Up have brought to this work.”