On Thursday, a New York City judge dismissed one of several charges of sexual assault against former Hollywood studio magnate Harvey Weinstein. The ruling came when prosecutors found that a New York City police detective had withheld evidence about one of the alleged victims. According to Lucia Evans, Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex at his office in Manhattan in 2004. It was thereby that prosecutors charged him with a count of criminal sexual act in the first degree.
Attorney Benjamin Brafman filed a motion on behalf of client Weinstein that accused the prosecution of failing to tell a grand jury that a witness claimed accuser Evans said that the sex act was consensual and was for the purpose of obtaining a role in a movie. Brafman argued in court that Evans then committed perjury by telling the grand jury the sex act was forced. “This is not about suggesting that a woman who comes forward should not be believed,” Brafman said at a press conference. “This is about witness who came forward and committed perjury before a grand jury.” He plans to file motions to have the remaining five charges dismissed.
A September 12 letter to Weinstein’s attorney Brafman, the New York district attorney’s office noted that NYPD Detective Nicholas DiGaudio interviewed the witness but did not report the exculpatory evidence before the case was presented to the grand jury. The letter was unsealed Thursday. However, a number of relevant documents, including a response from Braffman, remain sealed. There are rumors that a police officer involved in the investigation was coaching a witness to change her story and withhold information.
Detective DiGaudio has been removed from the case while his actions are being reviewed. He could possibly face criminal charges.
According to the witness, Evans told her she went to Weinstein’s office where he agreed to arrange for a movie role in exchange for oral stimulation. The witness claimed that Evans agreed. Prosecutors heard from the witness who claimed that she and Evans met Weinstein a a bar where Weinstein was alleged to have offered cash to both of them in exchange for showing their breasts to him. The witness refused, but did not see Evans expose her breasts to Weinstein. Evans is alleged to have told her later that she exposed her breasts to Weinstein. Evans has denied the witness’s version of events, according to the D.A., and that she never consented to sexual relations with Weinstein.
In court, Assistant Defense Attorney Joan Illuzzi said that these disclosures do not affect the “strength of the remaining case and the remaining counts in the indictment, all five of them, including predatory sexual assault.”
Thursday’s court decision came a year after Evans proclaimed her account of the alleged assault by Weinstein in 2004 at his Miramax film-distribution company. She told The New Yorker magazine that he Weinstein “forced me to perform oral sex on him.” Earlier this year, Weinstein was charged with six counts of crimes allegedly committed against Evans and two other women. These included: rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree, and criminal sexual act. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty during his arraignment and denies all allegations of rape and sexual assault. In May, he was released after posting a $1 million bail. If convicted, he could face decades in prison. The court will hear additional motions to dismiss the charges against Weinstein on December 20. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance declined to charge him with sexual assault in 2017 after model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez told police Weinstein once groped her. Vance said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Weinstein. Later on, however, it was later revealed that Gutierrez and New York City police recorded Weinstein apologizing for touching her.