Weinstein Seeks Dismissal Of Sexual Assault Case In Possible #MeToo Setback When Harvey Weinstein was arrested, it was a landmark moment for the movement known as #MeToo. But the criminal case against the former movie mogul has not been the slam dunk many people expected.
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Weinstein Seeks Dismissal Of Sexual Assault Case In Possible #MeToo Setback

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Weinstein Seeks Dismissal Of Sexual Assault Case In Possible #MeToo Setback

Weinstein Seeks Dismissal Of Sexual Assault Case In Possible #MeToo Setback

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Lawyers for Harvey Weinstein will be back in court this week, trying to get the entire criminal case against him thrown out. A year ago, the allegations against Weinstein became a catalyst for the #MeToo movement. Dozens of women have come forward to accuse the former movie mogul of rape and sexual misconduct. But the criminal case involving three alleged victims has not turned out to be as open and shut as many people expected. NPR's Joel Rose has covered law enforcement in New York City. And NPR's Rose Friedman covers the arts. They brought us this report.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to police in Lower Manhattan in May. I was watching it on TV while my colleague ran downtown to cover the perp walk.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Harvey.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Harvey, what took you so long?

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: It was a zoo. You can hear the news helicopters. There were so many reporters, I had to stand on the back of someone's stepladder. Harvey Weinstein got out of an SUV. And the detective took him inside. It was a big day for law enforcement in New York and for the #MeToo movement.

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ERIC THOMAS: A stunning fall for Harvey Weinstein tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Harvey Weinstein is in handcuffs. The disgraced Hollywood...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Let's go live now to Manhattan Criminal Court, where Harvey Weinstein is being arraigned on sexual abuse charges.

ROSE: Harvey Weinstein has always denied that he sexually assaulted anyone. He insists the encounters were consensual. Now fast-forward six months from that scene in May. One of the assault charges against him has been dropped. And the rest of the case may be in jeopardy, too.

FRIEDMAN: We're going to walk you through what happened and this round robin of blame between the detectives, the DA and the defense. Police and prosecutors are accusing each other of undermining the case. Harvey Weinstein's lawyers are using all that fingerpointing to their advantage.

ROSE: Let's start with Exhibit A, the detective Nicholas DiGaudio. He's the guy who walked Harvey Weinstein into the police station that day. Now he's the guy being blamed for problems with the case. To understand why, we called Joseph Giacalone. He's a former NYPD detective who's written a textbook for investigators.

How bad is this for the case? I mean, is this case in trouble?

JOSEPH GIACALONE: Yes, I believe the case is going nowhere.

ROSE: Giacalone points to a couple of missteps. For one, prosecutors say Detective DiGaudio encouraged an accuser to delete some personal data off her phones before she turned them over to police. Giacalone says that makes it look like there might have been evidence on the phones that could make her look bad.

GIACALONE: You just can't tell somebody, hey, just delete this, and we won't tell anybody because it just gives a bad impression about what you're trying to do. Like, you're trying to almost manipulate what the outcome of this is going to be.

ROSE: Prosecutors say Detective DiGaudio made other mistakes, too. And they disclosed all of those issues to Weinstein's lawyers. The NYPD wouldn't let us talk to DiGaudio. But his union rep says he did his job and that prosecutors didn't do theirs.

FRIEDMAN: Which brings us to Exhibit B, the district attorney. Cyrus Vance is the Manhattan DA. And this is not the first time he's come up against Harvey Weinstein. Back in 2015, police thought they had enough evidence to prove that Weinstein had groped an Italian model. But Vance declined to bring charges.

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CYRUS VANCE JR: I understand that folks are outraged by his behavior.

FRIEDMAN: This is Vance explaining his decision two years after the incident, when more women had come forward.

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VANCE JR: I understand that there are many other allegations that have surfaced. But in our case, we really did what I think the law obligates us to do.

FRIEDMAN: So here we are in 2018. Vance has charged Weinstein. But then prosecutors start to have doubts about parts of the case.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Today, what could be a huge blow to the criminal case against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

FRIEDMAN: Prosecutors dropped one of the sexual assault charges. As we've said, they think police ran a shoddy investigation. But the lawyer for the woman who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault is furious.

CARRIE GOLDBERG: I'm baffled by the DA's decision.

ROSE: We sat down with attorney Carrie Goldberg at her boutique law firm in Brooklyn. She thinks the dropped charge should have gone forward. She says the case isn't weak. The district attorney is.

GOLDBERG: You've got prosecutors who are more concerned about whether they win or lose than trying to hold one of these people accountable.

ROSE: The district attorney, Cy Vance, has been painted in the New York press as someone who won't go after the rich and powerful. Goldberg thinks that's what's happening in the Weinstein case.

GOLDBERG: This is a man with outrageous amounts of power and access who, you know, thought he could have anything he wanted, including every single woman that he found attractive.

ROSE: The DA's office declined to talk to us. But Vance's defenders reject the idea that he's afraid to take Weinstein to court. They say he likely lost faith that he could prove that one charge beyond a reasonable doubt. And prosecutors have said in court they'll fight any efforts by the defense to have the rest of the case thrown out.

FRIEDMAN: And that brings us to Exhibit C, the defense lawyer.

ROSE: What's on the wall here? What are these?

BEN BRAFMAN: These are just some souvenirs.

FRIEDMAN: Ben Brafman has been one of the top criminal defense lawyers in New York for decades. He gave us a tour of his high-rise office in Midtown. One of the walls is covered with photographs of the high-profile men he's represented. And they are mostly men. Rapper Sean Diddy Combs - acquitted of gun charges. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund - cleared of sexual assault. Harvey Weinstein hasn't made the wall yet. But Brafman insists his latest client isn't a criminal, either. An adulterer, sure. But not a criminal.

BRAFMAN: Mr. Weinstein is, you know, embarrassed by the fact that he had these extramarital relationships at a time when he was married. You know, I'm not defending his behavior. I'm defending specific acts of criminal conduct.

FRIEDMAN: The DA's office has called for Brafman to stop trying the case in public. But Brafman says he has no choice. He says Weinstein's accusers are lying, pointing out that they continued to text and email his client. And Brafman says he's up against what he calls the worldwide hysteria created by the #MeToo movement.

BRAFMAN: This is not about the #MeToo movement being bad. But when you have a #MeToo movement that pressures public officials to take certain action when perhaps it's not warranted, then it gets to be very, very scary. And I think that's what happened here.

GLORIA ALLRED: The defense always wants everyone and anyone to be on trial other than their own client.

ROSE: Attorney Gloria Allred has been fighting for women's rights for decades. She represented dozens of women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct. And she represents one of the Weinstein accusers. Allred says she's seen this tactic before.

ALLRED: Let's put the police on trial. Let's put the prosecution on trial. Let's put the whole #MeToo culture on trial - anybody and everybody except Harvey Weinstein. But I'm not distracted from who the actual defendant is.

ROSE: This week, a judge will determine whether the case against Harvey Weinstein can go forward. But for many people watching, it'll be more than that. It'll be a test of how far the #MeToo movement has come in a year. Joel Rose...

FRIEDMAN: And Rose Friedman.

ROSE: ...NPR News, New York.

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