Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is facing intense scrutiny following his decision not to prosecute movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2015. This week, an NYPD tape of Weinstein allegedly admitting to groping a woman was made public, putting Vance on the defensive.
The Weinstein story exploded into the headlines after a New York Times story last week led to him being fired from his movie company Sunday amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment and even rape. State House Reporter Zack Fink filed the following report.
Answering questions for the first time about his decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein in 2015, Vance said the decision was guided by the facts.
"Folks are outraged by his behavior. I understand that there are many other allegations that have surfaced," Vance told members of the media on Wednesday. "But in our case, we really did what I think the law obligates us to do: Focus on the evidence and the facts that we have, and then I relied on the true professionals to help guide through the decision, which is not always going to be the popular decision. That is the nature of being a prosecutor."
This week, the New Yorker Magazine released an NYPD wiretap of Weinstein from two years ago in which he appears to admit to groping an Italian actress.
Vance was at an unrelated event Wednesday in Manhattan, where he was flooded by questions from reporters, who also asked about contributions from Weinstein's attorney to his campaign, and whether that played into the decision not to prosecute.
The Weinstein allegations come just a week after Vance was accused of failing to prosecute two of President Trump's children in connection to a SoHo condominium project where they allegedly misrepresented the building's success to investors. Trump's longtime attorney also gave money to Vance, although those contributions were returned.
Vance: It is legal, and it has been common practice for district attorneys to be able to raise money from lawyers, even though those lawyers may have matters before the office.
Reporter: Does that make it right?
Vance: Well, it makes it legal.
State Assemblyman Dan Quart of Manhattan is calling on the state attorney general to investigate Vance.
"I think the revelations of the last week are deeply troubling and they demonstrate two things: One, that there are two tracks of justice for people in Manhattan, and secondly, that there is a pervasive pay-to-play culture that's brought a cloud around the Manhattan district attorney's office."
Unlike in other states, county district attorneys in New York are elected, not appointed. That means Vance will be on the ballot as a Democrat next month. He is running unopposed, although there has been some talk of a write-in candidate challenging him.