Police take fresh look at Weinstein sex assault claims

CBS News 9 months ago

NEW YORK -- Police detectives are taking a fresh look into sexual assault allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein

New York Police Department spokesman Peter Donald said Thursday that investigators are trying to determine whether there were any additional complaints involving Weinstein, now embroiled in a sex abuse scandal. That includes reviewing police files to see if any women previously reported being assaulted or harassed by him.

So far, no filed complaints have been found, he said, other than one well-known case that prompted an investigation in 2015, but authorities are encouraging anyone with information on Weinstein to contact the department.

More than two dozen women — including actresses Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow — told The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine for recent stories that Weinstein had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Weinstein was fired Sunday by The Weinstein Co., a studio he co-founded with his brother. 

Detectives in the NYPD's special victims unit were instructed to identify and speak with any potential victims, including the women who spoke about their encounters with Weinstein in the New Yorker article, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

In the New Yorker exposé, a former actress, Lucia Evans, said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 when she was a college student.

At least one other unnamed woman said she was raped by Weinstein, but the article did not disclose when or where it happened. A third woman, actress Asia Argento, told the magazine that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 1997 at a hotel in France.

Under New York law, making someone engage in oral sex by physical force or the threat of it is a first-degree criminal sexual act. There's no legal time limit for bringing charges. 

Weinstein, through a spokeswoman, has denied any nonconsensual sexual conduct with any women. He said Wednesday in Los Angeles that he's hoping for a second chance and needs to "get help." 

A former assistant of Weinstein's, who did not want to be identified and asked us to alter his voice, told CBS News' Bianna Golodryga he feels he and others who worked for Weinstein were victims in a way, as well. 

"It was no secret that he had scores of women all across the globe," he said. 

The former assistant says it was well known that his boss was a philanderer. But he says Weinstein went to great lengths to keep his most private moments secret. 

"It seems almost like the company was structured from the top to bottom to service whatever it was he was doing," he said.

New York detectives already investigated Weinstein once, in 2015, when an Italian model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, said the studio executive grabbed her breasts and groped her. Detectives set up a sting where they recorded a conversation between her and Weinstein, where he tried to persuade her to come into his hotel room. 

"Why, yesterday you touch my breast?" the 22-year-old asked on the audio recording published by The New Yorker.

"Oh, please, I'm sorry, just come on in. I'm used to that. Come on. Please," Weinstein responded.

But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the case. 

Vance said his office's "best lawyers" examined the evidence before deciding, less than two weeks after the woman first made her allegations, to drop the investigation. 

"I, like they, were very disturbed by the contents of the tape. It's obviously sickening," Vance said. "But at the end of the day we operate in a courtroom of law, not the court of public opinion. And our sex crime prosecutors made a determination that this was not going to be a provable case, and so the decision was made not to go forward."

Police investigated the 2015 allegations as a case of forcible touching, a misdemeanor with a two-year time limit for bringing charges. The statute of limitations has since expired.

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