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The Universe's Birthday Gift to Harvey Weinstein: Overdue Consequences

Last night, news broke that the New York attorney general is investigating the way the DA's office handled allegations against Weinstein in 2015—and his namesake company will be releasing former employees from their strict non-disclosure agreements.
Photo by Paul Bruinooge via Getty

Harvey Weinstein—who has mostly kept a low profile since dozens of women starting coming forward last year to publicly accuse him of sexual harassment and assault—received some unexpected news on his 66th birthday yesterday: New York's attorney general is now investigating claims that the district attorney office mishandled a 2015 sexual assault case in which the Italian model Ambra Battilana accused the disgraced producer of groping her.


The announcement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office came a day after representatives from Time’s Up put pressure on the governor to launch an independent investigation into the way Battilana’s case was handled, in light of a recent report that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and his office may have been influenced “to derail the investigation.”

Three years ago, Battilana accused Weinstein of grabbing her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt at his Tribeca office; after the incident, she went to the police, who organized a sting to capture a confession on tape. While Battilana was wearing a wire, Weinstein admitted that he was “used to” groping women and added, “I won’t do it again.” Although the police believed they had a strong case, the charges were ultimately dropped by the DA’s office.

"It is of great concern,” Cuomo said in a statement released Monday evening, “that sexual assault cases have not been pursued with full vigor by our criminal justice system.” Because “questions” had been raised around the “handling” of Battilana’s case, he said, he is ordering Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to perform a review. He also said that the Manhattan DA’s office is currently in the process of investigating a second case against Weinstein, "which involves witnesses and facts from the 2015 case." That investigation should end within the next 45 days; once it's over, Schneiderman will review "the entire matter."

“It is critical,” Cuomo noted, “not only that these cases are given the utmost attention but also that there is public confidence in the handling of these cases.”

That’s particularly important for survivors of sexual assault, says Josie Torielli, the assistant director of intervention programs at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. She tells Broadly it’s important that victims feel the people who are tasked with fighting for them in the criminal justice system have their backs. “Prosecutors represent the people of the state of the New York,” she says, “so the people need to feel like they’re being represented, and their interests and their safety are being represented by that prosecutor and that prosecutorial office.”

Meanwhile, there’s some speculation that more people may come forward with Weinstein-related stories: On Monday, the Weinstein Company announced it has filed for bankruptcy, and is releasing all employees from non-disclosure agreements. The company called the NDAs Weinstein’s “secret weapon to silence his accusers.”

One person who suffered in silence for years because of such an NDA was actress/director Rose McGowan. Early this morning, McGowan, who’s accused Weinstein of rape, posted a birthday message for the producer: “Happy birthday Harvey Weinstein,” she says in the video. “I told you we’d be coming. I told you 20 years ago if I heard of you doing this to another girl or woman, we would come for you; I would come for you. Happy fucking birthday. From all of us: We win.”