NEW YORK (AP) — In the latest push to have Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault case thrown out, the movie producer’s lawyer said Thursday that a woman accusing him of a 2013 rape pressured a friend to corroborate her account, but that the friend wouldn’t “make up a story.”
The friend told defense investigators that Weinstein and the rape accuser had been “hooking up” consensually for a long time and that she never heard the accuser say anything bad about him until last year, lawyer Benjamin Brafman said in a court filing. The friend was not identified in court papers.
Weinstein’s side also believes police set up a phone call between the film producer and one of his accusers shortly before his arrest, but the operation failed to produce incriminating evidence.
“The only reasonably prudent decision would be to stop this chaos now,” Brafman wrote, urging Judge James Burke to dismiss the case at a Dec. 20 court hearing.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment.
In a filing last week, prosecutors said there was “ample evidence” to move forward and that Brafman was trying to create a “public circus” with an earlier demand that police investigators be questioned in court about alleged misconduct that has roiled the case.
Prosecutors dropped part of the case in October after evidence surfaced that a detective coached a witness.
Three of the five remaining charges stem from the allegations at the heart of Brafman’s latest filing, that Weinstein raped a woman in a hotel room in March 2013. The two other charges allege that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on another woman in 2006 at his Manhattan apartment.
Brafman said the rape accuser called the friend out of the blue after they hadn’t spoken since a falling-out two years before. She discussed the alleged assault and asked for the friend’s help, “presumably so as to serve as a prompt outcry witness,” Brafman wrote.
An “outcry witness” is a term for the first person or people who were told about an alleged attack. Such testimony can be powerful in a sexual assault case.
The friend responded that she’d never been told about the allegation and didn’t want to get involved, according to the filing. But sometime after, a New York City police detective approached her about the matter.
She told the detective that the accuser, who has never been publicly identified, and Weinstein had an intimate relationship and that she’d never heard the assault allegation at the time, according to the court papers. Brafman blasted authorities for not passing the information to the defense.
Weinstein, 66, denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
What first appeared to be a strong case against Weinstein, brought in the glow of the #MeToo movement as dozens of women came forward to accuse him of wrongdoing, has been dinged by back-to-back allegations of police misconduct.
First, prosecutors dropped a criminal charge involving a third woman after evidence surfaced that Det. Nicholas DiGaudio coached a witness to keep quiet when she raised doubts about the veracity of the allegation.
Days later, prosecutors revealed that DiGaudio allegedly urged the rape accuser to delete material from her cellphones before she handed them over to prosecutors. The woman didn’t delete any information and instead asked a lawyer for advice, prosecutors said.
DiGaudio’s union has said he “was simply trying to get to the truth” and wasn’t trying to influence the investigation. He is no longer involved in the Weinstein case.
Brafman, in the filing, said Weinstein was caught in the middle of a public feud between the New York Police Department and the district attorney’s office.
He said that police had pressured prosecutors into charging Weinstein by publicly demanding an arrest and indictment and talking openly to reporters about witnesses and purported evidence.
After the flood of sex misconduct claims against Weinstein last year, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. came under heavy scrutiny for declining to charge him over an Italian model’s allegation that he groped her in 2015.
Police also set up a sting in that investigation, and the model later recorded an in-person encounter in which she confronted Weinstein. He alternated between apologizing and trying to persuade her to go to his hotel room.
The New York Police Department on Thursday reiterated its statement that “the evidence against Mr. Weinstein is compelling and strong” and that it will continue to work with prosecutors “to deliver justice for the courageous survivors who have bravely come forward.”
Earlier this week, a Delaware bankruptcy court judge granted Weinstein’s lawyers access to thousands of emails on his former movie studio’s servers that they say discredit his accusers.
Brafman said he’s preparing for the possibility that prosecutors will try and bolster their flagging case by portraying Weinstein as a serial predator and telling jurors about allegations against him that didn’t lead to criminal charges.
Brafman referred to that step as a “Cosby motion,” after the disgraced comedian who was convicted in April of drugging and assaulting a woman in 2004 after prosecutors were allowed to call five witnesses who said he had victimized them in similar fashion.
Brafman said in Thursday’s court filing that the emails “demonstrate that these women who now allege sexual assault by Mr. Weinstein have for years engaged in loving and often intimate conversations with him before and after the date of the alleged assault.”
By MICHAEL R. SISAK and JENNIFER PELTZ
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