“Their verdict turned the page in our justice system on men like Harvey Weinstein”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 24, 2020
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat who has been in office for more than a decade now, briefly addressed the media after prosecutors secured a conviction against prominent Democratic Party donor and Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein on counts of rape and criminal sexual act.
Vance credited eight women–victims and prosecutors–for “pull[ing] our justice system into the 21st Century by declaring that rape is rape, and sexual assault is sexual assault no matter what,” and no matter who committed the crimes.
“This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and this is a new day,” he said. “It’s a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed.” Vance said their bravery proved that rape is rape “even if there is no physical evidence.”
You know who had an opportunity to hold “vicious sexual predator” Weinstein–and others–accountable years ago but didn’t? Cy Vance.
Remember this from 2017 about something that didn’t happen in 2015?
Just months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute Weinstein over sexual assault allegations, the Hollywood producer’s lawyer, Daid Boies, donated $10,000 to Vance’s re-election campaign.
First broken by journalists David Sirota and Jay Cassano, here’s a condensed version of that story: In April, 2015, Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez accused Weinstein of groping her breasts and shoving his hands up her skirt. She contacted the NYPD and wanted to press charges. There was no lack of evidence in this case either. An audio recording made at the NYPD’s request–and available to Vance’s office–reveals that Weinstein admitted the initial unwanted contact and that he had a sordid history of making such contact.
Many people clearly did remember this.
Numerous articles were written after news about this got out, and other high-profile sexual assault cases Vance oversaw (and dismissed) started receiving additional scrutiny. As memorialized by the New Yorker:
Vance’s stomach for high-profile prosecution was tested early on, in the 2011 sexual-assault case against the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who, before his arrest, was the head of the International Monetary Fund. A maid who was cleaning the Sofitel New York hotel suite where Strauss-Kahn was staying reported to police that he had emerged naked from the bathroom and forced her to perform oral sex. The D.A.’s office indicted Strauss-Kahn and trumpeted the strength of the case. But the office later disclosed credibility problems with the complaining witness. Vance reversed course and decided to dismiss all criminal charges, announcing that his office was “unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, what ever the truth may be about the encounter.”
The last line of the blockquote above illustrates what Vance was referring to when he mentioned a “new landscape” in light of #MeToo.
But the questions about Vance and his office’s decision-making when it comes to rich and powerful men accused of sex crimes do not end here. As recently as January, several survivors demanded his resignation when highlighting a sweetheart deal gifted to Columbia University gynecologist Dr. Robert Hadden.
The disgraced OB/GYN was accused of sexually assaulting no less than 19 of his former patients—including Evelyn Yang, wife of 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
“Most women don’t know what you’re supposed to get when you’re pregnant,” Yang recently said in an interview—adding that she was initially unsure about what happened and that she only decided to open up about Hadden after other survivors came forward.
“I feel like I put up with some inappropriate behavior that I didn’t know at the time was straight-up sexual abuse slash sexual assault until much later,” Yang continued, saying those doubts eventually dissipated. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted.”
One of those additional survivors is Marissa Hoechstetter, who led the protest against Vance. Hoechstetter was the first woman to come forward about Hadden’s abuse. She claims he conducted unwarranted breast exams, made lewd comments about her looks and licked her vagina during a postpartum examination several years ago. Several additional woman have since come forward to register similar accusations.
Hadden eventually pleaded out on various charges. There was no jail time, but Hadden was forced to give up his medical license. Vance also argued against placing Hadden on a sex offender registry.
“For 10 years, Vance has repeatedly favored the wealthy and connected over justice for victims of sexual assault,” Hoechstetter said, noting that Hadden was actually first arrested in 2012 for licking another woman. But Vance’s office cut him loose. Hadden went on to abuse more women after that brief encounter with Manhattan justice.
“Vance allowed that to happen,” Hoechstetter said. “It’s on him, and he must resign immediately.”
The very same Manhattan District Attorney office run by Vance, it cannot be forgotten, once shocked a judge by requesting that the infamous dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s sex offender status be lowered to the lowest possible ranking.
Back in 2011, Assistant Manhattan DA Jennifer Gaffney argued in court that Esptein’s sex offender status should be lowered from level 3 to level 1. If this was granted, Esptein would have been kept off the online sex offender database. This was after Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor as part of a secretive, sweetheart plea deal that continues to garner intense scrutiny to this day. In reality, Esptein was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls and ended up dodging federal charges. That changed in July 2019 Esptein was arrested for sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Epstein died the following month before he could stand trial.
Per the New York Post on the judge’s response to an argument in favor of Epstein:
“I have never seen the prosecutor’s office do anything like this,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholz told Gaffney. “I have done many [cases] much less troubling than this one where [prosecutors] would never make a downward argument like this.”
Pressed by the judge, Gaffney admitted that she never spoke to the Florida U.S. Attorney who handled a sprawling sex-crime investigation into the financier.
“I don’t think you did much of an investigation here,” Pickholz said. “I am shocked.”
Vance later admitted a mistake was made. Victims have said otherwise.
It was also alleged that the Manhattan DA’s office was aware that Epstein was allowed to skip mandatory check-ins for sex offenders of his status–meaning Epstein was allowed to do something that others would be imprisoned for.
“Our office vigorously prosecutes all failure-to-verify cases,” a Vance spokesman said at the time. “Our prosecutors did not and would not discourage the NYPD from making an arrest.”
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[Image via CBS News screengrab]
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