Last week’s question: Why didn’t Harvey Weinstein lose his job twenty years ago? This week’s question: Why isn’t Harvey Weinstein in prison? After the New York Times belatedly broke the news of Weinstein’s predatory behavior, the rest of the dam of silence has begun to collapse. At least three women, two of which went on the record, now accuse Weinstein of rape, while dozens of others have come forward to discuss being victimized by varying degrees of sexual assault.
New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow published the exposé about an hour ago, with Asia Argento the latest and most prominent figure to speak publicly about her experience:
For more than twenty years, Weinstein has also been trailed by rumors of sexual harassment and assault. This has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond, but previous attempts by many publications, including The New Yorker, to investigate and publish the story over the years fell short of the demands of journalistic evidence. Too few women were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, monetary payoffs, and legal threats to suppress these myriad stories. Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, told me that she did not speak out until now––Weinstein, she told me, forcibly performed oral sex on her—because she feared that Weinstein would “crush” her. “I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento said. “That’s why this story—in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older—has never come out.” …
Three women––among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is “used to.” Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.
Why didn’t the Manhattan district attorney prosecute Weinstein at that time? In part, Battilana Gutierrez turned out to have some credibility problems, the New York Daily News reported over the weekend. The fact that Weinstein’s attorney donated $10,000 to Cyrus Vance Jr’s campaign coffers might have something to do with it, too:
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer delivered $10,000 to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. in 2015, in the months after Vance’s office decided not to prosecute Weinstein over sexual assault allegations, according to an International Business Times review of campaign finance documents. That contribution from attorney David Boies — who previously headlined a fundraiser for Vance — was a fraction of the more than $182,000 that Boies, his son and his law partners have delivered to the Democrat during his political career.
Cyrus Vance Jr will have some explaining to do, no? The detectives certainly think so:
At the prospect of her now figuring as the victim in a case against a high-profile figure such as Harvey Weinstein, the DA’s office seemed to hesitate. The DA’s office asked the SVU questions and the SVU answered them and the DA’s office asked more questions that the SVU also answered.
“They knocked it around about a week, back and forth,” the NYPD commander says.
The DA’s office finally reached an official determination, following what a spokesman rightly described as “a thorough investigation.”
“After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported,” the spokeswoman announced.
The NYPD commander offers a different analysis based on long experience.
“When you say no after a week, it’s not usually over the facts,” he suggests.
Farrow notes that Battilana Gutierrez also got paid off and signed a “highly restrictive nondisclosure agreement with Weinstein,” and declared that no assault ever took place. That was part of a well-established pattern with Weinstein, as the New York Times’ exposé made clear last week. So was retaliation, and Farrow gets two famous names to discuss that aspect of resisting Weinstein:
Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation. “If Harvey were to discover my identity, I’m worried that he could ruin my life,” one former employee told me. Many said that they had seen Weinstein’s associates confront and intimidate those who crossed him, and feared that they would be similarly targeted. Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, told me they suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein’s advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them. Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared that they might be similarly targeted. Several pointed to Gutierrez’s case, in 2015: after she went to the police, negative items discussing her sexual history and impugning her credibility began rapidly appearing in New York gossip pages. (In the taped conversation with Gutierrez, Weinstein asks her to join him for “five minutes,” and warns, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”)
Farrow continues in great detail to explain the power structure that Weinstein exploited to conduct his predatory behavior over several decades, and how other power structures ended up either turning a blind eye or participating in his power plays. Some of Weinstein’s more ambitious employees acted as procurers of victims to satiate Weinstein’s appetites. Personnel services allowed their temps to get exploited without bothering to protect them, with rare exceptions. Media outlets gobbled up his gossip leaks, which Weinstein used to damage people who either blew the whistle or threatened to do so. Weinstein had the money, the power, and the connections, and anyone who wanted to benefit from them ended up doing his bidding or feeling his wrath.
If Hollywood’s A-listers didn’t know about this, it’s because they didn’t want to know about it. Plenty of people knew enough about it all along, and were willing to talk enough to keep others from falling into Weinstein’s clutches. The New York Times knew about it 2004, and even law enforcement knew about it two years ago. Everyone who benefited from Weinstein had a stake in keeping his secrets, and it’s tough to conclude that they did anything else.