After raising $20 million and fielding over 1000 requests for legal assistance in just the first few weeks, the Hollywood anti-harassment initiative Time’s Up just earned a major victory, proving yet again that it’s more than just black dresses and trivial pins. Over the weekend, it publicly called for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate the decision by the New York District Attorney’s office not to charge Harvey Weinstein, and yesterday Governor Cuomo released a statement announcing a new investigation.
In an open letter published March 18th by the Cut, the initiative urged Governor Cuomo to “launch an independent investigation of the New York County District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, and the office of the District Attorney, to determine the facts related to the decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for sexual abuse crimes against one of his accusers, Ambra Battilana.”
The open letter comes just two days after NY Magazine revealed the extent of the alleged mishandling of the Weinstein accusations; Vance’s office is accused of treating Battilana’s accusations with hostility while bowing to political connections and legal pressure in its decision not to prosecute Weinstein, even though Weinstein had confessed to misconduct on tape.
The letter states:
Reports that District Attorney Cyrus Vance could have been improperly influenced by Mr. Weinstein and/or his representatives, and that senior officials within the DA’s office may have sought to intimidate Battilana are particularly disturbing and merit investigation. Similarly, reports that the New York Police Department chose to isolate Battilana from Vance’s staff because they feared his office was actively working to discredit her story demand immediate scrutiny.
The letter concludes with this point:
There will only be real consequences for abusive behavior when our public officials, sworn to uphold the law, care as much about the rights of the victim as concerns for the accused.
#TimesUp on Harvey Weinstein’s impunity & Cyrus Vance’s refusal to prosecute him @TIMESUPNOW “Greater awareness of sexual abuse crimes is essential,but hollow & can even be a deterrent if survivors cannot access justice through fair & unbiased prosecution https://t.co/WSjb9yR6Pi
— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) March 19, 2018
This isn’t the first time in recent months Vance has been accused of unethical behavior; last year, his office was accused of dropping a fraud case against President Trump’s adult children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., after a campaign donation.
And it seems as though the governor was paying attention.
Yesterday, the governor’s office released a statement acknowledging “questions about the handling of the 2015 sexual assault case of Ms. Ambra Battilana against Harvey Weinstein” and announcing that Cuomo had “directed the attorney general to begin a review” to determine “what further actions may be necessary.”
See the full statement below:
It is of great concern that sexual assault cases have not been pursued with full vigor by our criminal justice system. Specifically, there are questions about the handling of the 2015 sexual assault case of Ms. Ambra Battilana against Harvey Weinstein. The Manhattan District Attorney is currently in the midst of a separate investigation, which involves witnesses and facts from the 2015 case. The Manhattan District Attorney at this point believes this current investigation will be completed within approximately 45 days. It is critical not only that these cases are given the utmost attention but also that there is public confidence in the handling of these cases. Therefore, I have directed the Attorney General to begin a review of the 2015 case in a way that does not interfere with the current investigation and, at the conclusion of the Manhattan District Attorney’s current investigation, to review the entire matter and report to me on its findings. Based on these findings we will decide what further actions may be necessary.
The recent revelations about sexual assault and harassment pervasive in our society are most disturbing. We are leading the way forward with the nation’s most comprehensive reform package. This behavior must end.
Multiple Hollywood women associated with Time’s Up tweeted out their appreciation upon hearing the news:
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) March 20, 2018
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) March 20, 2018
Time’s Up was first announced on January 1st, after women began to share their #MeToo stories and helped take down formerly powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose. Though much of the attention was focused on the request for actresses to wear black gowns to awards shows to raise awareness and show solidarity with the victims, now the initiative can add another achievement to its resume.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.