Time’s Up, the Hollywood-based movement dedicated to ending sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, has set its sights on a powerful man who, though he may not have personally harassed or abused women, appears to have protected at least one who has. Time’s Up is going after Cy Vance, the New York County District Attorney whose office failed to charge Harvey Weinstein after Ambra Battilana Gutierrez made a formal complaint against him and even recorded him admitting to the assault.
In an open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo published at The Cut, Time’s Up has requested that Cuomo launch an investigation into Vance and the office of the District Attorney to ascertain whether or not Vance’s decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein was influenced by Weinstein and/or his legal representatives.
After Weinstein was informed of Gutierrez’s complaint, he hired representation with ties to Vance’s office: Elkan Abramowitz, Vance’s former law partner and campaign donor, and Linda Fairstein, former head of the District Attorney’s Office’s Sex Crimes Unit. According to a New York Magazine article, the DA’s attempts to discredit Gutierrez were so aggressive that the NYPD put her up in a hotel under a fake name to protect her from them.
Vance’s office has previously said that it didn’t have enough of a case to prosecute Weinstein.
An excerpt from the open letter reads:
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.
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 open letter goes on to point out that prosecuting Weinstein could have prevented other credible allegations of assault that occurred after Gutierrez’s case. “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,” it concludes. And it’s true. If we want to make sure harassers and abusers face the consequences of their actions, those who maintain the system that protects them must be forced to do the same.
We’ve reached out to Vance’s office for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
Danny Frost, the spokesperson for Manhattan’s DA’s office, e-mailed us with a response to the Time’s Up open letter:
We have great admiration for Times Up and for the courageous women and men who have brought about a long-overdue reckoning with decades of intolerable sexual abuse. Our commitment to justice in these cases is unwavering and we welcome the engagement that powerful advocates like Times Up have brought to this work.
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.
The Manhattan DA’s pioneering Sex Crimes Unit – the first of its kind in the country – has been a national leader in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults committed by perpetrators of all backgrounds since the 1970s. 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.
Police and prosecutors play different roles in the justice system. 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. We are confident that our agencies will continue to respect the different roles and standards of proof that govern our work, and will continue working collaboratively and professionally to deliver justice to victims of crime in Manhattan. From time to time we’ll have our disagreements, but we will never allow them to undermine this shared endeavor.
As has been widely reported, our investigation of Mr. Weinstein is active and ongoing. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further.