NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo froze probe into handling of Weinstein charges following campaign donation
(JTA) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo froze an investigation into the prosecutor’s handling of sex crimes allegations against Harvey Weinstein days after receiving a $25,000 donation from the media mogul’s ex-lawyer.
Sludge and Capital and Main reported Wednesday about the closure of a probe by the state Attorney General’s Office into how the Manhattan District Attorney’s office handled allegations in 2015 against Weinstein, who is now on trial for rape and sexual harassment charges.
Cuomo had called for the investigation in March after it was revealed last year that Boies, Schiller & Flexner, a law firm that had represented Weinstein, gave $10,000 to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in the months after Vance declined to prosecute the prominent film producer on sexual assault charges in a case involving accusations that Weinstein groped an Italian model.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed reported that Cuomo reversed himself in June, sending a letter to the state attorney general, Barbara Underwood, asking her to suspend the investigation for six months.
The order came six days after Boies gave $25,000 to Cuomo’s reelection campaign, according to New York campaign finance records. In all, Boies and his law firm have given Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaigns more than $245,000 since 2009, according to the report.
This and other issues “spotlight ongoing questions about whether law enforcement actions in New York are being inappropriately influenced by campaign donations,” Sludge said.
A spokesperson for Cuomo said in a statement: “The attorney general’s investigation was suspended to avoid situations in which Weinstein’s defense attorneys would be able to constantly petition the attorney general’s office for information about what they uncovered and undermine a criminal prosecution.”
Weinstein’s trial, which opened in June, follows the publication in October of accounts by several women from the movie industry who said he had forced himself on them and others for decades with the silent knowledge of many in the film industry and beyond.
Separately, a former NBC television producer who had worked with the journalist whose damning report about Weinstein last year in The New Yorker led to the #MeToo movement, accused the network of putting a stop to the reporting. The order concerning Ronan Farrow came from “the very highest levels of NBC,” the producer, Rich McHugh, told The New York Times for an article published Thursday.
NBC denied the characterization on Thursday, saying Farrow’s work was not broadcast-ready when he decided to take his reporting to The New Yorker.