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Harvey Weinstein to face new charges and the possibility of life in prison

At long last, Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance is ready to prosecute Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein exits State Supreme Court, June 5, 2018 in New York City. CREDIT: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Harvey Weinstein exits State Supreme Court, June 5, 2018 in New York City. CREDIT: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Harvey Weinstein, whose name has become colloquially synonymous with “sexual predator,” has been charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault. These new charges, along with an additional count of criminal sexual act in the first degree for a forcible sexual act against a woman in 2006, were announced Monday by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance.

What does this mean? For one thing, it adds a third woman’s claims to the existing charges against Weinstein, for which he was arrested in May. (He was then charged on alleged assaults involving two women, one in 2004 and one in 2013.) And another: Predatory sexual assault is a Class A-II felony. It carries a minimum sentence of ten years — and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In a statement announcing the Manhattan grand jury’s indictment, Vance called the new charges “the result of the extraordinary courage exhibited by the survivors who have come forward.” Weinstein is pleading not guilty and has denied all allegations of non-consensual sexual contact.

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There was a time not too long ago — 2015, to be exact — when Cyrus Vance did not want to prosecute Weinstein. Vance possessed evidence that Weinstein assaulted Ambra Battilana Gutierrez: NYPD detectives had Weinstein admitting to groping Battilana on tape, audio they recorded during a sting operation that all the world would hear when, in October 2017, Ronan Farrow published it with his New Yorker story. Weinstein can be heard not only copping to the assault but begging Battilana to come to his hotel room in spite of his transgression, lest she cause trouble by “making a big scene” and, worse, “embarrassing” Weinstein. As he put it: “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”

So what was Vance up to while he was busy not prosecuting Harvey Weinstein?

As ThinkProgress previously reported: Vance took $26,550 in campaign donations from Elkan Abramowitz, Weinstein’s defense attorney, $2,100 of which Abramowitz gifted Vance only after Vance dismissed the investigation into Weinstein. Vance also accepted a $10,000 political donation from David Boies, an attorney for Weinstein, months after not pursuing the charges against Weinstein.

And if Boies’ name rings a bell, well:

As The New Yorker story revealed, Boies worked with Black Cube, a private investigation organization, on Weinstein’s behalf to spy on Weinstein’s would-be female accusers and crush the publication of stories about Weinstein’s misconduct, including the story that ultimately ran in The New York Times. (The cherry on top: Boies’ firm was representing the Times in libel litigation at the same time as Boies was working with Weinstein to stop the Times’ bombshell story from coming out. Boies didn’t see the conflict of interest. Unsurprisingly, the Times did not agree, calling his creative-slash-criminal multitasking a “grave betrayal of trust.”)

In March, New York magazine published a damning investigation into Vance’s conduct surrounding the Weinstein case. Vance allegedly obstructed all efforts to bring Weinstein to justice, including siccing his office on Battilana in an effort to discredit her. Vance reportedly relied on such hostile, out-of-line methods (including asking Battilana’s roommates about whether she liked to “bring home lots of strange men,” and looking over video from Battilana’s apartment’s surveillance cameras to “create a record of Battilana’s personal life”) that Michael Osgood, commander of the NYPD’s Special Victims Division, had Battilana placed in a hotel under a false name “to hide her from the DA.”

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After the New York story came out, Time’s Up organizers published an open letter on The Cut, demanding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “launch an independent investigation” into Vance and the office of the district attorney to figure out exactly what went into this stunning failure to prosecute Weinstein.

And it was only after all of that — Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism by Farrow in the New Yorker, the scathing read on Vance in New Yorkand public pressure from Time’s Up — that Cuomo announced the state attorney general would would review how Vance handled the Weinstein case. At the time, a police official told the Daily Beast that the NYPD had the evidence it needed to arrest Weinstein on felony sexual assault charges.

Two months later, Weinstein turned himself into the authorities and was charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct.

Does this trajectory sound familiar? Because it should: There are strong similarities between what’s happened with Vance and Weinstein and the case against Bill Cosby.

Andrea Constand, like Battilana, went to the police to accuse a famous, powerful man of sexual assault. And, like Vance, the Montgomery County district attorney at the time, Bruce Castor, declined to pursue the Cosby case, citing insufficient evidence. And as with the Weinstein case, it was only after months of wall-to-wall media coverage surrounding dozens of similar allegations against Cosby that Constand’s investigation was reopened.

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This is where the narratives diverge: Amid a stunning degree of renewed interest in the Cosby case, Castor ran for re-election. He promised that he wouldn’t let Cosby get away again. He lost. Kevin Steele, Castor’s victorious opponent, went on to successfully take Cosby to court and win. Cosby was convicted on all three counts and is awaiting sentencing, under house arrest at the Cheltenham home where he drugged and sexually assaulted Constand.

Vance was up for re-election last November. Despite the mounting criticism of his mishandling of the Weinstein case (not to mention his 2012 decision not to charge Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. with felony fraud), Vance won, crushing a last-minute write-in campaign by former Brooklyn prosecutor Marc Fliedner. Vance got over 90 percent of the vote.