the law

What You Need to Know About the Harvey Weinstein Case So Far

Photo: Steven Hirsch/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Harvey Weinstein’s May 25 arrest on sexual-assault charges was a pivotal moment for the #MeToo movement. It seemed like the criminal-justice system might finally listen to sexual-assault accusers, even if the men who had allegedly attacked them were rich and powerful. By July, the disgraced movie mogul would find himself facing six counts related to allegedly nonconsensual encounters with three women: Lucia Evans, Mimi Haleyi, and a still-unidentified accuser. The counts included rape in the first and third degrees, two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, and two counts of predatory sexual assault. But cracks started to show in the criminal case against Weinstein shortly thereafter: Weinstein’s lawyers claim prosecutors didn’t give the grand jury complete information and that a top NYPD detective withheld facts from prosecutors. Then, one of the counts was dismissed because of inconsistencies in an accuser’s story.

As a result, prosecutors have found themselves extensively defending their case from allegations of wrongdoing since landing their big win in indicting Weinstein. The Manhattan DA’s office and cops insist that their case is solid, with NYPD officials saying they’re “fully confident in the overall case it has pursued against Mr. Weinstein. The evidence shows that the criminal case against him is strong.” Weinstein, who has maintained his innocence, is due back in court on Thursday, December 20. While it’s unclear exactly what will happen in the courtroom, new details on the status of Weinstein’s case might surface. Until then, here are eight key turning points in the legal drama so far.

Weinstein’s lawyers said important emails were kept under wraps.
Weinstein’s lawyers alleged that Manhattan prosecutors improperly kept information from the grand jury that could have proved his innocence — such as emails sent from an accuser to Weinstein. In an August 3 court filing, lawyer Benjamin Brafman claimed Weinstein had a harmless relationship with one of the women accusing him of an assault in 2013. Brafman cited an email sent some four years later in which the woman allegedly wrote, “I love you, always do. But I hate feeling like a booty call. :).’”

“Although reflecting neither Mr. Weinstein’s words nor feelings, by using the term ‘booty call,’ the complaining witness appears to acknowledge the consensual, intimate nature of her relationship with Mr. Weinstein, “ Brafman argued, “and perhaps, most importantly, signaled her desire for a fuller and more emotionally committed relationship. This evidence should not have been kept from the Grand Jury.”

Despite Weinstein’s lawyer’s claims, prosecutors insist the grand jury process was by the book.
Manhattan prosecutors submitted a filing on September 12 that claimed “the grand jury was properly instructed on the law, and that the integrity of the proceedings was unimpaired, and the People deny all allegations to the contrary …” They insisted that emails exchanged between an accuser and Weinstein were also handled properly, and that none of the emails show him denying the alleged rape.

“Rather, defendant claims that, at most, the emails could suggest a state of mind inconsistent with what defendant feels should be that of a rape victim…,” they said. “Most importantly, a review of the Grand jury minutes in this case will reveal, the People presented evidence fairly and in a manner that was not misleading by providing a full and fair account of the relationship between defendant and the victim both before and after the charged rape.”

One count has already been thrown out.
Manhattan Supreme Court justice James Burke agreed during an October 11 proceeding to dismiss one of the sexual-assault counts against Harvey Weinstein relating to Lucia Evans, who alleged that Weinstein forced her into oral sex in the summer of 2004. Prosecutors disclosed a letter they had sent Brafman on alleged inconsistencies in Evans’s account. A witness told prosecutors she was with Evans at a Manhattan bar when Weinstein first came up to them. The witness said Weinstein promised them money “if they exposed their breasts to him.”

Evans later told the witness that she did so, and went to Weinstein’s office sometime after the restaurant. Evans said that Weinstein would “arrange for [her] to receive an acting job if she agreed to perform oral sex on him” and “according to the witness, [Evans] told her that she thereupon performed oral sex on the defendant.” The witness said she had given this information to NYPD detective Nicholas DiGaudio in February. DiGaudio later admitted to prosecutors that he “failed to inform our office of the important details,” the letter said. Police have said DiGaudio is no longer on the case.

Detective DiGaudio also told an accuser she could get rid of her cell phones.
The Manhattan DA sent a letter to Weinstein’s lawyers on October 16 disclosing that DiGaudio told one of Weinstein’s accusers that she could delete information on her phone that she didn’t want prosecutors to see. Prosecutors had asked this woman to turn over any cell phones she might have used to communicate with Weinstein.The woman voiced concern that there might be private information on these phones.

DiGaudio allegedly responded by saying she “should delete anything she did not want anyone to see before providing the phones to our office,” the woman claimed. DiGaudio then said to her “we just won’t tell Joan,” referring to lead Weinstein prosecutor Joan Illuzzi. The woman did not erase anything from her phone and hired a lawyer who then contacted prosecutors to disclose “certain information” on DiGaudio, the letter said.
She ultimately turned the phones over to prosecutors as requested, “without any deletions,” Illuzzi said. The woman insisted that neither DiGaudio nor “anyone else influenced her testimony or any evidence she provided.”

There were more emails allegedly hidden from Weinstein’s defense team.
Weinstein’s lawyers alleged in a November 5 court filing that DiGaudio’s “misconduct” had “infected this case” irreparably. “The District Attorney has to date acknowledged at least two instances where Det. DiGaudio’s misconduct has infected this case, one with Lucia Evans and one with [unnamed accuser],” Weinstein’s lawyers wrote. “Counsel has reason to believe that Detective DiGaudio committed misconduct with Mimi Haleyi as well.”

Haleyi “continued to communicate with Mr. Weinstein after the alleged July 2006 assault,” Weinstein’s lawyers continued. “For example, on February 12 2007 — more than seven months after the alleged incident — Mimi Haleyi texted Mr. Weinstein’s phone with the following message: ‘Hi! Just wondering if u have any news on whether Harvey will have time to see me before he leaves? X Miriam.’”

Brafman’s filing said it was unclear whether prosecutors were aware of Haleyi’s “continued communications with Mr. Weinstein” and improperly kept this from the grand jury — or whether DiGaudio “purposefully hid” them.

Prosecutors blamed Weinstein’s lawyers for creating a “public circus.”
Manhattan prosecutors chided Weinstein’s legal team for the spate of increasingly attention-grabbing motions, claiming in a November 19 filing that Weinstein’s legal team wanted to turn the proceedings into a “public circus” by calling for a public hearing on allegations of police misconduct. Prosecutors doubled down on their position that the grand jury “was properly instructed on the law” and that “the integrity of the proceedings was unimpaired” in yet another response filing.

“The only reason the defendant wants a hearing is to provide a public circus that will further the public relations campaign the defendant has been waging since the outset of his case,” they argued. Despite discrepancies in Evans’s account, prosecutors said, there isn’t proof that she lied. “At most, it creates an issue of fact as to the credibility of the complaining witness. Such testimony is simply not the type of evidence that impairs the integrity of the Grand Jury process,” they said.

Weinstein’s lawyers said media pressure led to a flimsy case.
Weinstein’s lawyers railed in a November 30 filing that bad press effectively forced prosecutors’ hand in charging him. “We submit, that Harvey Weinstein, a man vilified by a vicious media assault[,] caused a case that was never critically examined or investigated, the falsity of the serious allegations being made as more fully discussed below were forced on the District Attorney by, a collective media that unfortunately placed unprecedented pressure on the District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department to prosecute Mr. Weinstein,” Brafman wrote in a court filing.
“This public, humiliating and highly political action, counsel submits, was intended to further and unfairly push the District Attorney’s Office into prosecuting Mr. Weinstein without first appropriately and fully investigating the credibility of the claims being made by the alleged victims.”

An accuser allegedly tried to “enlist” a friend to back her story.
Brafman claimed in a December 7 filing that one of Weinstein’s accusers met him at a movie premiere “hours” after the alleged attack. This woman had accused Weinstein of raping her on March 18, 2013, and she is referred to in court papers as “CW-1.” Brafman claimed that she went to a film screening where Weinstein was present later that night. Brafman alluded to emails sent “mere hours” after the alleged attack, in which Weinstein’s assistant asks CW-1’s friend to this showing. This unidentified friend — whom prosecutors say CW-1 “recently tried to enlist” to corroborate her rape charge — replied, saying she would attend with CW-1. The friend allegedly told Brafman they attended the premiere and saw Weinstein there.

The friend also claimed to have disclosed info about the screening to “two separate teams of NYPD detectives … more than a year ago” when they questioned her about CW-1’s allegations. Brafman also claims that CW-1 never mentioned an alleged attack to her friend until relatively recently — and then tried to get her to back the accusations.

“CW-1 attempted to use this [friend] as a fabricated prompt outcry witness years after the alleged rape,” Brafman claimed.

Prosecutors filed a response shortly thereafter saying these equated to “attempts to manufacture exculpatory information.” “Again, when read in conjunction with the grand jury minutes, this is not exculpatory information,” they said. “That the defendant has a misguided and antiquated view of how a rape victim should react after having been assaulted does not change this reality.”

What You Need to Know About the Harvey Weinstein Case So Far