Ambra Gutierrez Recorded Harvey Weinstein Admitting Sexual Assault in 2015. Why Wasn’t He Charged?

18.02.2020 - Democracy Now!

Ambra Gutierrez Recorded Harvey Weinstein Admitting Sexual Assault in 2015. Why Wasn’t He Charged?
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Irin Carmon is a senior correspondent for New York magazine who has followed the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She just published her new profile on Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a Filipina-Italian model who reported Weinstein to the New York Police Department in 2015 for allegedly groping her during a meeting at his Tribeca office. At the urging of police, she wore a recording device for an arranged meetup at a Manhattan hotel and got Weinstein to admit on tape that he groped her and sought unsuccessfully to get her to come to his room. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance decided not to pursue the case and said “a criminal charge is not supported.” Carmon’s article is headlined “The Woman Who Taped Harvey Weinstein.”

AMY GOODMAN: A jury of seven men and five women meet today in New York Supreme Court to begin deliberations on whether to find disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape and sexual assault. The case has drawn international attention amidst the #MeToo movement. If the jurors find Weinstein guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 100 women. In this case, he faces five charges based on evidence relating to two main accusers. One woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, alleges she was raped by Weinstein in a New York hotel. He’s been charged with rape in the first and third degrees in her case. The second main accuser is former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haley, who alleges Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006. For this, Weinstein faces a count of criminal sex act. If the jury finds Weinstein guilty of charges relating to either or both of the main accusers, then it can consider two counts of predatory sexual assault. These charges would require the jurors to find Weinstein guilty of sexually assaulting more than one woman. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty.

For more, we’re joined in our New York studio by Irin Carmon, senior correspondent for New York magazine who has followed the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She spoke to more than a dozen of his accusers in her article “100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein” and wrote a 57-page PowerPoint Harvey Weinstein’s team — she wrote about this PowerPoint, sent to reporters, that smeared his alleged victims. Her new piece, out today, is headlined “The Woman Who Taped Harvey Weinstein.” It features an interview with Ambra Gutierrez, the Filipina-Italian model who reported Weinstein to the New York Police Department in 2015 for allegedly groping her during a meeting at his office. She then went back wearing a recording device for an arranged meetup at a hotel. In the tape, Weinstein admits he groped her and tries to get her to come into his room. But the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance decided not to pursue the case and said, quote, “a criminal charge is not supported.” We’re going to talk about all of these issues.

Irin Carmon, it’s great to have you back at Democracy Now!

IRIN CARMON: Thanks for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s start with the Weinstein case today, the closing arguments last week, and now this case goes to the jury. What should we understand about it?

IRIN CARMON: More than almost any other case, this case has become synonymous with the #MeToo movement, and that is not a coincidence. It was stories about Harvey Weinstein that were published in The New York Times and in The New Yorker that helped open up the floodgates from thousands, even millions, of people telling stories of sexual assault. What changed, from Ambra Gutierrez agreeing to wear a wire, 22 years old, taping Harvey Weinstein secretly, putting herself at risk, yet being hung out to dry by the New York DA? What changed between then and, here we are, five years later, and the New York — the same Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, headed by Cy Vance, has brought these charges that are quite complex against Harvey Weinstein? What changed is that there was a lot — a flood of organizing. There were a flood of voices, not just about Harvey Weinstein.

But, you know, the criminal law is a separate tool from public awareness, from journalism, as you well know. And so, the question that is going to be at the heart of this case, as we wait for the verdict and as the jury begins its deliberations, is: Have they proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt? And that is not going to be the same thing as: Do you believe the 100-plus women who have come forward?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to the story that you just dropped today for The Cut, for — you’re working for New York magazine. Many people may remember, but explained to us what happened. Now, this is not what’s at issue right now —

IRIN CARMON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: — in this case. What happened with Ambra? I mean, what’s amazing about this, she didn’t record herself. She worked with the police.

IRIN CARMON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: She put herself in serious danger here.

IRIN CARMON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain her bravery from the beginning.

IRIN CARMON: Well, it’s interesting, right? Because in 2017, when these stories were published, there was this great surprise. Wow! Who knew? There were rumors, but people did not know the extent. But, to my knowledge, she is the first person, years before, to have gone to the police with a report, to have done everything that the authorities asked her to do. She was 22 years old. She was in a country that she didn’t grow up in. She’s from the Philippines and from Italy. She says that Harvey Weinstein stuck his hand up her skirt and groped her breasts. He then called her, while she was sitting at the Tribeca precinct completely distraught. The Special Victims Unit sent her in with a wire. She was also secretly —

AMY GOODMAN: Wait. So, he calls her. Unbeknownst to him, she’s sitting in the police precinct.

IRIN CARMON: Yes. And she allows the cops to listen to the call. She then agrees, the very next day, despite being deeply shaken by her experience, agrees to go back and meet with this man again, wearing a wire and recording on her phone a backup in case it failed, which it did fail. So, just imagine what’s going through her head as she’s in this hotel lobby. Harvey Weinstein badgers her to go upstairs. Ronan Farrow later publishes this recording, a portion of which you hear Harvey Weinstein admitting that he groped her breasts, apologizing for it, saying he’s used to it. She’s upset. He’s begging her to come into the room, in the same kind of — what Ashley Judd described as “coercive bargaining,” that many of the women who have come forward about Weinstein have described, which is dangling job opportunities and then implying that in some way this means that women have to consent to sexual activity, that many women have said they did not consent to.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, then explain what happened to her, doing the police’s bidding —

IRIN CARMON: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — recording this.

IRIN CARMON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: She’s got it in the bag, or in the bug.

IRIN CARMON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: She returns. And then what happens next?

IRIN CARMON: So, Amber believed she had done everything that they asked her to do. But then she was also, she describes it as, interrogated by Cy Vance’s office, specifically by Martha Bashford. And at this point she really feels like they put her on trial, though this is something that when folks report on sex crimes have heard a million times. Sometimes it is just that the DA really wants to make sure: Is this somebody who’s going to be comfortable being cross-examined on the stand? But nonetheless, she felt that she herself was being put on trial, despite the fact that she had recorded evidence of Harvey Weinstein admitting to groping her without her consent. And she left that meeting feeling uneasy.

At the same time, Harvey Weinstein enlists powerful people. Ronan Farrow has reported Rudy Giuliani, Linda Fairstein, who was the former head of the Sex Crimes Unit, are all putting pressure on the office not to bring charges against her. A public relations campaign is waged against her, as well. She has worked as a model. Photographs of her in the most suggestive, out-of-context manner end up on the front page of the New York Post and the Daily News. She is accused of being a sex worker, which she says she was not. Things from her past are dragged out as if she herself is being put on trial in public opinion. And eventually, she learns, from reading the newspaper — she says she didn’t hear it from the DA’s Office — that they’re not going to bring charges against Harvey Weinstein. And it will take two-and-a-half to three years for any charges to be brought in connection with more than a hundred women who have accused Harvey Weinstein.

AMY GOODMAN: Martha Bashford was the chief prosecutor at the time, who is now, after 40 years —

IRIN CARMON: In the Sex Crimes Unit.

AMY GOODMAN: In the Sex Crimes Unit — who has now said she is retiring.

IRIN CARMON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: She just announced.

IRIN CARMON: That’s true.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did Linda Fairstein fit into this story?

IRIN CARMON: Well, Linda Fairstein was part of Harvey Weinstein’s team, and she is said to have had a close relationship with Martha Bashford, and who have called her on Harvey Weinstein’s behalf. And it’s fascinating, because you see how he also used the press as a tool. So, you also suddenly have Harvey Weinstein being described as a married father of five, and her being described as this sort of sex worker who is extorting poor Harvey Weinstein.

Now, now that we have the recording, which took years to come out, despite the fact that Ambra signed — she did sign a nondisclosure agreement for a million dollars. She said she feared for her family. She was supposed to hand over all evidence to Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys. But she decided that she needed what she described to me as an “escape plan.” She held onto one of those recordings, through kind of a spy games operation — again, 22 years old, alone in this country — and she subsequently gave that recording to Ronan Farrow. And it helped buttress the reporting that was already being done in The New York Times and The New Yorker about the cascade of allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

AMY GOODMAN: And very interestingly, before we go on to this case, we had in headlines the story of Dr. Hadden, who’s now — I think 70 women have come forward saying he forcibly sexually assaulted them in his OB-GYN office. He’s a Columbia University doctor. And the entire New York City Council Women’s Caucus has called for Cy Vance’s resignation. And one of the heads of the caucus said that they want to be sure that the district attorney is going to be involved in aggressive — in aggressively dealing with sexual assault and not privileging white men.

IRIN CARMON: You know, Amy, does anybody believe that if Robert Hadden or Harvey Weinstein were low-wage workers, men of color who were lower on the social totem pole, that they wouldn’t be sitting in jail right now based on the evidence against them? I think it is quite clear, in sex crimes and in other crimes, that we have an unequal system of justice. And now there are some efforts to even the scales, but it’s challenging, because the job of a powerful person who wants to get out of a possible charge against them is to make the price so high. Prosecutors are not known for wanting to bring cases that they’re going to lose, right? They brag about their conviction rate. They don’t take risks if they don’t have to. And powerful people understand how to make the price so high that they may well lose the case — the prosecutors may well lose the case. And when they make that cost-benefit analysis and powerful people are in their ear, and “He’s a wonderful pillar of the community,” or “He’s given so much money to these causes,” that becomes a consideration. And it’s only in the last couple of years that the voices of other people saying, “This happened to me, this is my evidence, I agree to testify,” is even making a dent in that.

Categories: Gender and Feminisms, Interviews, North America
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