We have a different kind of hero in the person of Detective Nicholas DiGaudio, who told Vanity Fair that the NYPD has enough probable cause to arrest Harvey Weinstein for allegedly raping actress Paz de la Huerta seven years ago.
Unless he thought he was speaking off the record, DiGaudio surely expected a reprimand at the very least.
He must have decided it was worth risking ire on high. He is with the famed Special Victims Unit (SVU) and by saying what he said and putting his name to it, DiGaudio put instant pressure on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance not to let Weinstein just skate a second time.
In 2015, the SVU built a convincing case against Weinstein for forcibly touching 22-year-old Ambra Battilana. There was even a recording of Weinstein making what amounted to a confession.
“I won’t do it again,” Weinstein can be heard telling Battilana, implicitly admitting he had done it to her before.
Vance’s office declined to prosecute this case of HE-said-she said, even though the SVU had gathered more evidence than is routinely used to arrest, prosecute, convict, and jail subway gropers.
Had Vance gone ahead and prosecuted Weinstein two years ago, that might well have prompted scores of other women to come forward to say he had also assaulted them, as they did in the aftermath of last month’s revelatory articles in The New Yorker and The New York Times.
And you have to figure that if that had led to a host of women saying “#Me Too” back then, the Access Hollywood tape and the bragging about being able to grab women wherever, whenever would have been harder for Donald Trump to shrug off. And that could have made a decisive difference in a very close election.
But in declining to pursue the case, Vance was only playing the game as prosecutors do across the country. They are generally more worried about wining than about giving justice the chance it deserves.
And Vance is not the only prosecutor whose office would do little to counter the sliming of the victim and then suggest that the case had been weakened because the victim had been slimed.
What set Vance apart came last month, after The Daily Beast and then other publications detailed the SVU’s Battilana investigation. The Daily Beast suggested that the district attorney’s office had been afraid of losing a high-profile case after an earlier embarrassment involving another celebrity, a French politician.
In a statement regarding its decision not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015, the district attorney’s office actually sought to blame the SVU. Never mind that the detectives had been dedication personified and had shown great initiative.
The detectives offered no public response, but you have to think that the district attorney’s office’s craven attempt to blame the SVU in that earlier case influenced DiGaudio’s decision to tell Vanity Fair, “I believe based on my interviews with Paz that from the NYPD standpoint we have enough to make an arrest.”
As the NYPD bosses generally and understandably take the positon that detectives should not comment on active investigations, DiGaudio might have expected a good scolding. And Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce might have been expected to say simply that the department was pursuing all leads.
But, whether or not the detective indeed got a scolding behind closed doors, Boyce is the kind of boss who does not forget he is a cop, and showed a little moxie himself at what was to have been a routine Friday afternoon press conference. Boyce forthrightly said of the Weinstein investigation, “We have an actual case going forward.”
He went on: “If this person was still in New York and it was recent we would go right away and make the arrest, no doubt. But we’re talking about a seven-year-old case. And we have to move forward gathering evidence.”
He said of the alleged victim, “We spoke to her. She put forth a credible and detailed narrative to us. Then we sought to garner corroboration... and we found it.”
All of this must have steadied de la Huerta and put pressure on the district attorney’s office, which was saying not for attribution that if it could build a case, it would.
In this case, there is not a recording of Weinstein apologizing to his alleged victim and essentially confessing. But there is a recording of de la Huerta recounting the attack to a journalist friend in 2014.
There is also a letter from de la Huerta’s therapist, who writes, “I recall you telling me that Harvey Weinstein was seeking sexual contact with you on more than one occasion with the promise of additional roles. I recall you reporting to me a sexual encounter with Harvey Weinstein involving intercourse in your apartment in 2010 that resulted in you feeling victimized. I recall you telling me that it felt coercive to you and that you didn’t want to have sex with him, but felt that you had to as he was a man of power and rank and you couldn’t say no to his sexual advances.”
There is also de la Huerta herself.
And there is the power of #MeToo, which might have been set in motion two years ago had the district attorney not suffered a loss of nerve, for which he later sought to blame the detectives of the SVU.
Now, we have Detective Nicholas DiGaudio, a different kind of hero, who has made it clear that the NYPD has a case of he-said-SHE-said.
This time, the district attorney’s office will have only itself to blame if it does not give justice at least a chance.