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Six months on pressure builds for justice

Issued: 2018-03-20

New York (AFP) - Six months after bombshell sexual assault allegations blew up against Harvey Weinstein, pressure is growing for the onetime Hollywood mogul to be brought to justice, with the Manhattan prosecutor under fire for failing to bring a criminal case against him three years ago.

Acting on demand from the Time's Up movement led by top Hollywood actresses, New York authorities vowed late Monday to "review" why the Manhattan district attorney did not prosecute the disgraced movie mogul in 2015.

"We are committed to pursuing a full, fair, and independent review of this matter," the state attorney general tweeted after Time's Up urged Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is up for re-election, to act.

More than 100 women have publicly accused Weinstein since October, allegations that sparked a sexual harassment watershed and ended his career.

His wife left him and police opened criminal investigations in London, Los Angeles and New York. Weinstein has been hit by a litany of civil lawsuits that stand to see the 66-year-old financially ruined. The Weinstein Company announced late Monday that it is filing for bankruptcy protection.

The studio also said it was immediately releasing accusers from non-disclosure agreements which Weinstein had used to silence them, allowing women to speak up without fear of retaliation.

But besides reportedly undergoing treatment for sex addiction at an Arizona clinic, the former powerbroker remains at large after hiring Ben Brafman, one of America's most celebrated criminal defense lawyers.

Frustrated by the apparent failure to bring him to justice, the movement founded by the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Chastain demanded Cuomo investigate the failure to prosecute the case of Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, one of the first women to come forward against Weinstein.

Had district attorney Cyrus Vance done so, other potential victims may have avoided being mistreated by the producer, they argued.

Time's Up called "particularly disturbing" reports that the mogul "could have... improperly influenced" Vance and that officials in the prosecutor's office "may have sought to intimidate Battilana."

"An independent investigation into the full decision-making process in this case, including a full review of the correspondence within the office and with any representatives for Mr Weinstein, must be undertaken immediately," the movement added.

But while state attorney general Eric Schneiderman vowed to open an inquiry, New York's police chief James O'Neill and Vance hit back jointly at a magazine report alleging improper influence.

O'Neill and Vance insisted they were "fully committed partners" and touted their "unparalleled track record of holding sexual predators from all backgrounds accountable in thousands of sex crimes."

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