The Time’s Up organization is calling for an investigation into New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. for his office’s decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein in 2015 after Ambra Battilana alleged that she had been groped and harassed by the indie mogul. The group, which was launched this year to combat workplace abuse and harassment, is calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to launch the probe.
The entreaty was prompted by a report by New York Magazine. It claims that Vance and his colleagues worked to undermine Battilana’s case against Weinstein because they were gun-shy about taking on a politically well-connected operator. That fear led Vance to decline to prosecute Weinstein, the article implies.
“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,” the group said in a statement. “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.”
Since launching in January, Time’s Up has raised more than $20 million for its legal defense fund. It boasts several Hollywood celebrities among its founding signatories — a group that includes Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, and Natalie Portman. Time’s Up wants Cuomo to empower an independent investigation into “the full decision-making process in this case” and wants a review of communications between Vance’s office and Weinstein.
“We are concerned that what appears to be the negative relationship between the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Special Victims Unit of the NYPD 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 group’s 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.”
In October, dozens of women, including major stars such as Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie, stepped forward with allegations of harassment or abuse by Weinstein. After these reports broke, Weinstein was been drummed out of Hollywood, is facing criminal investigations, and his film and television studio, The Weinstein Company, teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. His fall from power has emboldened others to step forward. In the months that followed allegations of sexual misconduct emerged against the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, and Matt Lauer.
A spokesman for the D.A.’s office did not immediately provide comment.