New York City prosecutors have dropped one of six counts of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein after questions were raised about inconsistencies in an accuser’s testimony.
The development, which was announced in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday morning, involved an allegation of assault made by Lucia Evans, a once-aspiring actress who told New Yorker magazine last year that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a 2004 meeting.
The Los Angeles Times does not normally identify those who make accusations of sexual assault, but Evans has come forward publicly in the past.
Weinstein surrendered to New York police in May and was charged with rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree and committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree for alleged forcible sexual acts against two women in 2004 and 2013, prosecutors have said.
In court Thursday, Manhattan Assistant Dist. Atty. Joan Illuzzi-Osborn said the development would not affect the other five counts against Weinstein.
“In short, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said. “As we do with every case, we will follow the facts of law wherever they may lead and protect those who are preyed upon as well as the integrity of the process.”
According to a letter made public by the district attorney’s office Thursday, Evans wrote a draft email to her husband in 2015 that somewhat differed from the account of the assault she gave to prosecutors. The email itself has not been made public and remains under seal.
“The account describes details of the sexual assault that differ from the account the complainant has provided to our office,” the letter released by the district attorney’s office reads.
Evans also previously told prosecutors she had “never disclosed” the details of Weinstein’s alleged assault to her husband, according to the letter, which was sent by prosecutors to Weinstein’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman.
The letter does not mention Evans by name but refers to the allegation of sexual assault that she described to the New Yorker last year.
A witness who claimed to have been with Evans the day she first met Weinstein said Evans told her the encounter with Weinstein was consensual, according to the letter. Recounting statements made by Evans, the witness told investigators Weinstein promised Evans an acting job if she performed oral sex, according to the letter.
Evans has denied the encounter was consensual, the letter said.
In a statement Thursday, Brafman said he would seek a dismissal of the remaining counts because he believed Evans’ “perjured testimony contaminated the grand jury proceedings.” Brafman also accused an New York Police Department detective of trying to suppress the witness testimony that led to the dismissal Thursday.
Brafman has attacked the credibility of Weinstein’s accusers in the past. In a 159-page motion seeking the dismissal of all charges in August, the attorney argued that Weinstein and the woman he is accused of assaulting in 2013 had extensive communications after the alleged abuse took place.
The communications, he said at the time, “reflect a consensual, intimate relationship with Mr. Weinstein in an exchange of more than 400 warm, complimentary and solicitous emails.”
An attorney for Evans said prosecutors had abandoned a victim.
“Let me be clear: The decision to throw away my client's sexual assault charges says nothing about Weinstein's guilt or innocence. Nor does it reflect on Lucia's consistent allegation that she was sexually assaulted with force by Harvey Weinstein,” attorney Carrie Goldberg said in a statement. “It only speaks volumes about the Manhattan D.A.'s office and its mishandling of my client's case.”
Wednesday’s development did not mark the first time the Manhattan district attorney’s office has been questioned over its handling of sexual assault allegations against Weinstein. In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state attorney general to review the office’s decision not to pursue charges against Weinstein after he was accused of groping an Italian model in 2015.
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women, and the torrent of allegations against him served as the basis for the #MeToo movement, which has led to the downfall of a number of celebrities and politicians.
Police in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York and London have conducted investigations into more than 20 allegations in the last year against Weinstein. Cases have been submitted to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for review, but no charges have been filed.
Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing. He has pleaded not guilty in the New York case and remains free on $1 million bail. Weinstein is due back in court on Dec. 20.