NEW YORK, N.Y. – A criminal investigation by New York police into 2010 rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein does not necessarily mean an arrest is imminent.
A look at the case and the next steps:
More than 75 women have publicly accused Weinstein of inappropriate behaviour ranging from requests for massages to intimidating sexual advances to rape. The list of accusers includes actresses Paz de la Huerta, Asia Argento, Lysette Anthony, Lucia Evans and Rose McGowan, who have all said Weinstein forced them into unwanted sex.
The movie mogul has denied having non-consensual sexual contact with anyone.
The disclosures come after The New York Times and The New Yorker published exposes of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, leading to his firing from the film production company he co-founded.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they speak publicly, which the women named here have done.
Police departments in London, New York, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California, have said they are investigating potential criminal charges in at least 10 different cases, some involving women who have not spoken publicly.
As of yet, only the New York City Police Department has said it has enough evidence to make an arrest.
The NYPD has zeroed in on allegations made by de la Huerta, who called police in late October to report Weinstein raped her twice in 2010.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said detectives interviewed de la Huerta and found her story believable in part because she articulated “each and every minute” of the crime. Two people corroborated portions of her account, he said, and investigators have subpoenaed others.
A senior sex crimes prosecutor was assigned to the case in New York. New York investigators are likely to present the allegations by de la Huerta to a grand jury before making an arrest.
“If this person was still in New York, and it was recent, we’d go right away and make the arrest. No doubt,” Boyce said of Weinstein. “But we’re talking about a 7-year-old case. And we have to move forward gathering evidence first.”
The grand jury would decide whether to indict Weinstein based on the standard of “reasonable cause” that he committed a crime, lower than that of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is needed for a conviction.
If an indictment is issued, prosecutors would ask a judge for an arrest warrant.
Weinstein has hired two top defence lawyers to represent him in any legal proceedings stemming from sexual assault allegations: Benjamin Brafman, of New York, and Blair Berk, of Los Angeles.
Weinstein’s spokeswoman said his lawyers do not believe an indictment is imminent.
“A formal presentation will be made on Mr. Weinstein’s behalf in the appropriate course of the investigation, and we strongly believe we will demonstrate that no criminal charges are warranted,” according to a statement released by Weinstein’s publicists.
The New York Police Department and Manhattan district attorney’s office haven’t seen eye-to-eye on Weinstein in the past.
In 2015, a model, Ambra Battilana Guiterrez, told police Weinstein groped her during a meeting in his Manhattan office. Police conducted a sting, during which Battilana Guiterrez recorded Weinstein apologizing for his conduct as he tried to persuade her to come into his hotel room.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. decided not to prosecute, citing a lack of proof.
After the recent flood of allegations against Weinstein, Vance’s top assistant prosecutor said police had arranged the sting without prosecutors’ knowledge or oversight.
The NYPD pushed back, saying it had used established investigative techniques.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
New York eliminated the statute of limitations on the most serious rape or sexual abuse charges in 2006. For other types of sex crimes, law enforcement generally must bring criminal charges within five years. London has no such limits. California eliminated the statute of limitations this year on certain rape and child molestation cases.
But that doesn’t mean all cases can be prosecuted. Generally, it’s only cases that were within the statute of limitations when the laws were changed. For New York, that means 2001 and later, and California, 2007.
One reason New York prosecutors are taking time could be because winning a conviction may be difficult, even if securing an indictment isn’t, legal experts said.
“To prove rape in New York, there has to be physical force or physical intimidation, or the victim was legally incapable of consenting,” said defence attorney and former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor Matthew Galluzzo.
Weinstein has an apartment in New York, where his production company is based. His current whereabouts are not publicly known, but New York City police said he is out of the state.
Weinstein’s representatives have not responded to media inquiries about where he is, but TMZ last week posted a photo of a man it said was Weinstein in disguise eating at a Phoenix restaurant.
Theoretically, there is nothing stopping Weinstein from leaving the country because he has not been charged with any crimes. Often, though, lawyers representing people under investigation will try to hold off hasty arrests by offering to hold onto their clients’ passports. It’s not clear if that’s happened here.