Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David today issued the following letter to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance:
Honorable Cyrus Vance, Jr.
Manhattan District Attorney
One Hogan Place
New York, New York 10013
Dear District Attorney Cyrus Vance:
I am writing in response to the letter you sent last night to Governor Cuomo regarding his appointment of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as Special Prosecutor. Your blatant misstatement of facts in that letter must be corrected.
The Special Prosecutor appointed by the Governor will investigate Eric Schneiderman AND the Attorney General's office for any facilitation of the alleged conduct reported in the New Yorker article. The investigation is not limited to, as you would suggest, simply investigating Mr. Schneiderman as a private citizen.
The order clearly states:
In addition to investigating the specific allegations outlined in the article, the Special Prosecutor shall investigate facts in the article suggesting that the Attorney General staff and office resources may have been used to facilitate alleged abusive liaisons referenced in the article.
To be clear, the office of the Attorney General is the same office currently investigating you for alleged failures in the handling of victims' cases in the Harvey Weinstein matter. It is frankly absurd to think that you can investigate an office that is simultaneously investigating your own conduct. I would refer you -- although as a law enforcement official I expect you are already aware -- to the well accepted legal and ethical standards compelling law enforcement officials to avoid even an appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest.
Moreover, credible women's organizations have come forward with concerns about your handling of sexual abuse or harassment cases. Indeed, it was their complaints that compelled the Governor's appointment of the Attorney General to investigate you in the first place.
The Time's Up group, a global women's network, wrote a letter to the Governor stating:
TIME'S UP, a global organization dedicated to ending workplace sexual harassment and abuse, calls on the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to launch an independent investigation of the New York District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, and the office of the District Attorney to determine the facts related to the decision not to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for sexual abuse crimes against one of his accusers, Ambra Battilana.
Reports that District Attorney Cyrus Vance could have been improperly influenced by Mr. Weinstein and/or his representatives, and that senior officials within the DA's office may have sought to intimidate Battilana are particularly disturbing and merit investigation. Similarly, reports that the New York Police Department chose to isolate Battilana from Vance's staff because they feared his office was actively working to discredit her story demand immediate scrutiny.
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 to ensure that prosecutorial integrity was maintained and to restore faith in the DA's office.
We are concerned that what appears to be the negative relationship between the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the Special Victims Unit of the NYPD makes it even less likely that victims who have been assaulted by rich or powerful men will be willing to come forward and that their assailants will be prosecuted and convicted.
Greater awareness of sexual abuse crimes is essential, but it is hollow and can even be a deterrent if survivors cannot access justice through fair and unbiased prosecution.
Given the multitude of credible reports of Mr. Weinstein's behaviors after the DA's decision not to prosecute in this case, arguably his continued victimization of others could have been avoided.
There will only be real consequences for abusive behavior when our public officials, sworn to uphold the law, care as much about the rights of the victim as concerns for the accused.
As a law enforcement official, you know it is not your personal beliefs that determine a conflict; rather, that must be determined by an objective review of the totality of the circumstances, including the interests of victims and their representatives. It is paramount that not only women, but all New Yorkers, believe this matter is being handled fairly, and they have made it clear that you do not instill that confidence in them. The original letter calling for you to be investigated made that clear, and the statement that they issued today reinforces that point.
We reiterate our request for an investigation into the relationship between the Manhattan DA and NYPD with respect to the investigation of sex crimes. We have already reached out to Acting Attorney General Underwood to ensure that the process begins ASAP. We believe that all investigations into any of these matters must be independent for the process to have the integrity it deserves.
Your original actions and omissions in the Harvey Weinstein matter caused the distrust of women's organizations. That distrust is your creation, not ours. The calls for your disqualification by women's organizations and other stakeholders have continued. Allowing a blatant conflict of interest to taint the investigation would only make the situation worse and we cannot be a party to it. Madeline Singas has the extensive qualifications necessary to conduct this investigation and is free of conflicts of interests. Women have been victimized by the system for years and it must stop.
Alphonso B. David