NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBSNews/AP) – The Manhattan district attorney’s office and the NYPD are pointing fingers over how they handled a sexual assault allegation against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The New York Times first reported last week that Weinstein settled at least eight sexual harassment lawsuits over the years. He was fired Sunday from the Weinstein Co., and the claims against him keep coming.
In a follow-up report Tuesday, actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie told The Times that Weinstein had sexually harassed them.
Paltrow said when she was 22 years old, Weinstein placed his hands on her and suggested they go the bedroom for massages. She said she refused his advances, but later her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt confronted Weinstein about it.
Jolie said in the 1990s, she had what she called a bad experience with Weinstein and chose to never work with him again.
Aspiring screenwriter Louisette Geiss held a news conference Tuesday, saying Weinstein harassed her when they met to discuss a script.
“I could get a three picture deal and that he would green-light my script, but I had to watch him masturbate,” she said.
Separately, three women accused Weinstein of raping them in a story published online by The New Yorker, including the Italian actress Asia Argento and a woman who was an aspiring actress in college when she caught Weinstein’s eye.
In March 2015, model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez told the NYPD that Weinstein had sexually assaulted her. The New Yorker published a recording obtained during the investigation in which Weinstein is heard admitting to groping Gutierrez.
Weinstein’s spokesperson responded, saying; “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Weinstein.”
The NYPD said it investigated a misdemeanor sexual abuse complaint against Weinstein at that time and referred the case to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The DA’s office ultimately decided not to file charges.
A statement issued by Tuesday by Chief Assistant DA Karen Friedman read in part, “While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to provide a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent.”
The DA’s office pointed fingers at police, saying the NYPD arranged a controlled call and meeting between Weinstein and the woman — without its knowledge or input.
“The seasoned prosecutors in our Sex Crimes Unit were not afforded the opportunity before the meeting to counsel investigators on what was necessary to prove a misdemeanor sex crime,” the statement said.
The NYPD fired back, saying, “the case was carried out by experienced detectives and supervisors from NYPD’s Special Victims Unit.”
“The detectives used well established investigative techniques. The recorded conversation with the subject corroborates the acts that were the basis for the victim’s complaint to the police a day earlier. This follow-up recorded conversation was just one aspect of the case against the subject,” the statement continued. “This evidence, along with other statements and timeline information was presented to the office of the Manhattan District Attorney.”
It’s something Pace University Law professor Bennett Gershman backs up.
“You are listening to a sexual pervert ply his trade,” Gershman told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare. “It’s so easy, and for a prosecutor to say there’s no proof of say there’s not proof of criminal intent? That’s what the prosecutor Vance said, that’s just so, so wrong.”
Actress and screenwriter Luisette Geiss is the latest accuser.
“I don’t think that Harvey Weinstein comprehends how much pain and suffering this brings me and scores of other women,” she said in a Tuesday press conference.
Also Tuesday, former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama said they were “disgusted” by the recent reports.
“Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” they said in a joint statement. “We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture – including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect – so we can make such behavior less prevalent in the future.”
Weinstein has been a major Democratic Party donor, as he and his family have given more than $1.4 million in political contributions since the 1992 election cycle.
He visited the White House during the Obama presidency and helped put on a film workshop in 2013, where the then-first-lady described him as a “wonderful human being, a good friend and just a powerhouse.”
Hillary Clinton said in a tweet Tuesday she was “shocked and appalled,” and “the behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior.”
Democrats and Clinton have been major beneficiaries of the Weinstein’s family largesse, with $200,000 to the party’s Senate campaign accounts, $23,200 to its House campaign arm senatorial and $46,350 to Clinton and to HILLPAC, a committee Clinton used to support other Democrats while senator. The figures include contributions attributed to Weinstein, first wife Eve Chilton and current spouse Georgina Chapman, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Weinstein and Chapman also contributed $10,000 to Obama.
Meanwhile, CBS News learned Weinstein made an unsuccessful last-ditch effort to save his career, sending a letter to several movie industry executives asking for support just hours before he was fired. He wrote, “I am desperate for your help.”
Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Jennifer Lawrence became the latest celebrities to join the chorus condemning Weinstein’s behavior. Affleck said it was “completely unacceptable,” Clooney called it indefensible, and Lawrence said she was deeply disturbed to hear the news.
Lawrence, who won an Academy Award for the Weinstein production “Silver Lining’s Playbook,” went on to say that she did not experience any form of harassment personally, nor did she know about the allegations. She added her heart goes out to all of the women affected.
“I think Harvey is finished in Hollywood. I really do,” says Matthew Belloni, editorial director of the Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t see how anyone would work with him.”
Fashion designer Donna Karan is facing heavy criticism after coming to Weinstein’s defense.
“It’s not Harvey Weinstein. You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble,” she said.
Karan’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s accusers. She tweeted, “Donna Karan you are a deplorable. Aiding and abetting is a moral crime.”
Actress Mia Farrow tweeted, “No more Donna Karan for me.”
The designer apologized Monday, saying, “My statements were taken out of context and do not represent how I feel… I am truly sorry to anyone that I offended.”
The Weinstein Company’s board, including Harvey’s brother Bob, denied they had any prior knowledge of what they called the “extreme sexual misconduct and sexual assault” allegations.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)