Harvey Weinstein

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Manhattan Federal Prosecutors Launch Investigation Into Harvey Weinstein

May 23, 2018 - 4:08 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have launched an investigation into Harvey Weinstein, apparently stemming from allegations of sex abuse.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed to CBS News that the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had launched the investigation.

No other details were immediately available.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has come under fire for its handling of sexual assault allegations against Weinstein, centering on the case of Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. In 2015, police conducted a sting after she accused Weinstein of groping her, secretly recording Weinstein apologizing for this conduct.

District Attorney Cy Vance ultimately decided there wasn't enough proof and didn't bring a case. Following criticism over the decision last year, prosecutors said police arranged the sting without their knowledge and there were other proof issues, but police pushed back saying they'd presented enough evidence.

After scores of new allegations against Weinstein surfaced, both the NYPD and the district attorney's office said in March that they were working together, but no grand jury has been convened despite police officials saying publicly they have enough evidence for a case.

Then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced at the beginning of the month that he planned to appoint a special deputy to investigate how Vance had handled the sexual assault allegations against Weinstein and others.

Weeks later, Schneiderman himself became embroiled in his own sexual misconduct controversy, when a New Yorker article alleged that he had physically abused four women. Schneiderman announced his resignation within hours of when the article came out.

Legal analyst Joey Jackson said the federal involvement likely stems from a frustration at the fact that Weinstein has yet to be held legally accountable under criminal law.

“I think that there’s a certain attitude now based upon the #MeToo movement that there needs to be accountability. It’s not only a situation where the rich and famous can be protected and do as they do, when they want, how they want. I think there’s a real frustration that people engaged in this, and I think what you’re seeing is the frustration on the part of the federal prosecutors in looking to get involved,” he said.

Could federal and local prosecutors end up stepping on each other’s toes with both investigating Weinstein? Jackson said they usually try to work in tandem.

He said the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has often gotten involved in matters that are usually under the federal jurisdiction, with former DA Robert Morgenthau often prosecuting financial crimes.

“There’s an issue where oftentimes you have what’s called concurrent jurisdiction. Both parties, whether it’s federal or state, can prosecute. I think ultimately, they’ll work out some arrangements, and each, for that matter, have different tools in their toolbox,” he said.

For example, Jackson said, federal prosecutors could prosecute Weinstein on financial charges. But if abuse is the only issue, it would more likely be under the state court jurisdiction except under a circumstance such as women being taken across state lines, Jackson said.

Weinstein’s attorneys have said their client has done nothing criminal and reject claims of nonconsensual sex.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)