Harvey Weinstein has won a small victory in his sexual assault criminal case: A judge has dropped one of his six charges.
This summer, a New York grand jury voted to indict the producer on one charge of a criminal sexual act in the first degree, stemming from an alleged 2004 encounter with a woman—later identified to be actress Lucia Evans; charges of rape in the first and third degrees, stemming from an alleged 2013 encounter with a second woman; and two counts of predatory assault and one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree stemming from an alleged 2006 encounter with a third. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and has for months been free on a $1 million bail.
On Thursday, a New York judge ruled to dismiss the first charge of criminal sexual act in the first degree stemming from the alleged 2004 encounter with Evans, after Weinstein's attorney filed a motion to drop the case. Prosecutors had said police "failed to inform" them about details of an interview, the New York Times reported. Dismissing the charge would not "affect the strength of the larger case," lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said, adding, "We are moving full-speed ahead."
Evans had told Ronan Farrow in a New Yorker interview last year that in 2004, Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Miramax office in Manhattan. She is one of at least 80 women who have over the past year gone to the press or taken to social media to accuse the producer of sexual misconduct.
After the hearing, a letter the lead prosecutor sent to Weinstein's lawyer last month was unsealed. It disclosed that a friend of Evans told prosecutors that Evans performed oral sex on Weinstein in exchange for an "acting job" and that the friend relayed this information to an NYPD detective months before the producer was indicted. The letter stated that Evans herself disputed her friend's account and insists that she "never consented to any form of sex with" Weinstein, and also states that the detective "failed to inform" prosecutors of "important details" of his interview with Evans' friend, the New York Times reported.
In court, Weinstein's lawyer said that the dismissal of the charge related to Evans' accusation had "tainted" the prosecution's entire case and that he believes she perjured herself in the grand jury, the newspaper said. The attorney also said that the detective "attempted to influence the integrity of the proceedings" by failing to report Evans' friend's story to prosecutors.
Weinstein's attorney also told the judge he will continue to seek dismissal of the remaining five charges against his client, adding, "The integrity of these proceedings has been compromised."
"While the crime of sexual assault is certainly serious, to falsely accuse someone of sexual assault is equally serious," the lawyer told reporters.
An attorney for Evans told reporters outside the court that the prosecution "jumped ship" and "ultimately she was caught between the middle of a feud between the NYPD and the DA's office," according to CNN. She added that Evan's claims remain and that her client will continue her fight in other venues.
"People always ask why don't sexual assault survivors come forward, this is why," she said. "Today is why."
If convicted of the most serious charges, Weinstein could still get jail time and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The numerous sexual misconduct accusations made against Weinstein, namely those made out of court, had raised awareness of the #MeToo movement and increased public debate about the issue of consent.
His lawyer told reporters that Thursday's developments are not an attack on the #Metoo Movement, adding, "If a movement is used to help level the playing field for women, that is good, but if the movement is used to pressure prosecutors to proceed with the filing of false criminal charges against a defendant, that often results in a miscarriage of justice."
Weinstein said in a statement last year, with regard to the allegations in the press, "I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it." He denied having taken part in non-consensual sex.