Weinstein faced criminal charges in connection to allegations by three different women. On Thursday, the Associated Press reports, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon dropped the charge associated with a report by marketing consultant Lucia Evans, who said that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 when she was an aspiring actress. Weinstein has denied all allegations of criminal behavior.
Weinstein’s path to indictment has been circuitous. In 2015, model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez reported to New York police that Weinstein had grabbed her breasts and tried to reach up her skirt, but Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance declined to prosecute — he later got a campaign donation from one of Weinstein’s lawyers.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation into that case earlier this year, but later quietly put it on hold — he, too, has received campaign money from Weinstein’s lawyer. Vance and Cuomo have both said their decisions had nothing to do with donations.
The charges Weinstein faces now are separate from the Gutierrez case. But his current legal battle is the subject of much scrutiny, since public allegations against him by more than 80 women led to the rise of the #MeToo movement last year. While some powerful people, like Bill Cosby, have been sentenced in connection with crimes committed before #MeToo, we have yet to see the first high-profile person accused, tried, and convicted in the #MeToo era.
Weinstein’s power, money, and influence may have helped him avoid prosecution in the past. The question is whether they’ll continue to help him now.
Weinstein still faces rape and sexual assault charges
As part of Weinstein’s defense, his legal team had taken aim at the allegation by Evans that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex in his office when they met to discuss her career in 2004. The allegation was first publicly reported by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker last year, but Weinstein’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said that Evans had lied both to Farrow and to the grand jury in the case, according to Michael R. Sisak and Tom Hays of the Associated Press.
Evans maintains that she is telling the truth. “The decision to throw away my client’s sexual assault charges says nothing about Weinstein’s guilt or innocence. Nor does it reflect on Lucia’s consistent allegation that she was sexually assaulted with force by Harvey Weinstein,” said her attorney Carrie Goldberg in a statement. “It only speaks volumes about the Manhattan DA’s office and its mishandling of my client’s case.”
Goldberg also said Evans was disappointed by the prosecutor’s choice to “abandon” her.
Brafman said that inconsistencies in Evans’s account were first uncovered by a fact-checker at the New Yorker. But a spokesperson for the New Yorker said, in a statement to Vox, “We stand by our reporting and fact-checking process, which was assiduous and thorough. Any assertion by lawyers for Harvey Weinstein that The New Yorker had information that contradicted Lucia Evans’s account is patently incorrect.”
It’s not yet clear what inconsistencies Brafman was referring to — additional details in the case are due to be unsealed later on Thursday. But the decision to drop charges is likely to prompt criticism of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Sisak and Hays note, especially since the office was already under scrutiny for what looked like coziness with Weinstein’s lawyers.
Meanwhile, Weinstein, who is free on bail, still faces rape and sexual assault charges in connection with two allegations: a woman says he raped her in his hotel room in 2013, and another woman says he performed a forcible sex act on her in 2006. His legal battle — in some ways, the first big one of the #MeToo era — is far from over.
Update: This story has been updated to include additional information about Brafman’s claim regarding Evans’s account, and a statement from the New Yorker.