NEW YORK — A judge dismissed one of six criminal charges against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after prosecutors acknowledged that they had discovered inconsistencies in statements made by one of his accusers.
The abrupt development, which took place at a hearing in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, signaled a victory for Weinstein and raised questions about the impact the revelation would have on the broader case against him.
Weinstein, 66, was charged in May with raping one woman and forcing another, Lucia Evans, to perform oral sex on him. Evans, a marketing executive, had testified to a state grand jury that the forced sex act had occurred in 2004, during a casting meeting at the offices of Weinstein’s film company, Miramax, in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood.
But in a letter unsealed after Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office revealed that a friend of Evans informed them in August that Evans gave them a different account of the incident.
Prosecutors said the friend told them Evans had performed oral sex on Weinstein in exchange for the promise of an “acting job.”
The friend said that she had related this account to the lead police detective on Weinstein’s case in February, more than three months before the producer was indicted. According to the letter, the detective, Nicholas DiGaudio, explained to the friend that she had no obligation to cooperate with prosecutors, telling her, “Less is more.”
The letter, which is dated Sept. 12, makes clear that Evans herself has disputed her friend’s account and still insists that she “never consented to any form of sex with” Weinstein. But it also notes that DiGaudio “failed to inform” prosecutors of “important details” of his February interview with Evans’s friend.
The detective has denied making the comments about the friend not having to cooperate, the letter said.
Evans was an aspiring actress and a college student when Weinstein approached her at a New York nightclub, she told The New Yorker last year. She met him at his office during the daytime, she told The New Yorker, and that is when Weinstein forced her head down to perform oral sex on him, despite her objections.
Even though the charge regarding Evans was dismissed, Weinstein still faces five other charges in connection with assaults against two women — one in 2013 and the other in 2006. The remaining charges include two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In court Thursday, Joan Illuzzi, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the dismissal of the charge involving Evans would not “affect the strength of the larger case.”
Illuzzi added that prosecutors were continuing to investigate allegations against Weinstein, telling Justice James Burke, “In short, your honor, we are moving full-speed ahead.”
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, and have said they were attacked after being lured to his office or to hotel rooms with the impression they would discuss potential acting roles. The flurry of accusations spurred the global #MeToo movement. Women have since publicly shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault by powerful men in the workplace.
Weinstein has denied wrongdoing and maintains that the relationships with his numerous accusers were consensual.
In court, his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, argued that the dismissal of the charge related to Evans had “tainted” the prosecution’s entire case. Citing the friend’s contradictory account, Brafman said that Evans had perjured herself in the grand jury. He also claimed that by failing to report the friend’s story to the district attorney’s office, DiGaudio had “attempted to influence the integrity of the proceedings.”
Brafman told Burke that he plans on issuing a subpoena to DiGaudio seeking all of the interviews he conducted with witnesses in the case.
Outside of court, Brafman told reporters that the district attorney’s office had charged Weinstein before it fully understood the accusations against him. “When you do your homework after the arrest,” he said, “bad things happen.”
In August, Weinstein’s defense team sought to discredit another of the producer’s accusers, pointing to hundreds of e-mails that suggested the relationship was consensual and lasted for years after the alleged attack.
Weinstein had been accused of raping the woman, who has not been identified, inside a hotel room at the Doubletree Inn in Midtown in March 2013. The e-mails were made public in a motion filed by Brafman in which he argued the charges should be dismissed because prosecutors had withheld the evidence from the grand jury.