Andrew Cuomo: I strive to be the most objectionable major Democratic public official in New York state.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. tends to give rich and powerful people a break from prosecution — particularly if they or people close to them have donated to his election campaign.
That’s the takeaway from multiple press scoops in October, revealing that Vance turned down chances to prosecute Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault, and Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for fraud and larceny. In each case, reports suggest Vance and his assistant district attorneys had compelling evidence, including a recording of Weinstein admitting to the assault in question.
Vance, and his representatives, insists that his reasons for abandoning the cases are valid and have nothing at all to do with lawyers for Weinstein and the Trumps giving him significant campaign contributions.
“After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported,” the DA’s office told the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow about the Weinstein case. As for the Ivanka and Donald Jr. case, Vance told a joint New Yorker/ProPublica/WNYC investigative team, “I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed.” Vance has since returned the contribution from the Trumps’ lawyer.
A few months after Vance decided not to pursue charges, his lawyer, David Boies, donated $10,000 to Vance’s reelection campaign, the International Business Times reports.
Vance’s and Boies’s representatives denied any connection between the gift and the decision not to charge Weinstein, noting that Boies has given $55,000 to Vance over the years and that Boies did not represent Weinstein in the Gutierrez case.
But the report on the Weinstein case comes shortly after a joint New Yorker/ProPublica/WNYC investigation last week that found Vance had shut down another investigation into other powerful people — in this case, Donald Trump’s children — while receiving a large contribution from a lawyer close to the case.
Then in 2012, after Ivanka and Don Jr.’s lawyers pleaded their case to prosecutors repeatedly, Donald Trump Sr.’s longtime personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz went directly to Vance himself, for a meeting on May 16, 2012. Shortly beforehand, Kasowitz had donated $25,000 to Vance’s reelection campaign.
“He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months,” the reporters write. “Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case.” Particularly incredible is the fact that Kasowitz offered Vance a settlement — but Vance instead dropped the case entirely. Afterward, Kasowitz reportedly bragged to friends about his coup, saying it was “amazing I got them off.”
Vance returned the $25,000 to Kasowitz shortly before meeting with him (standard practice in the DA’s office). But some months later, Kasowitz gave Vance another $32,000. Vance only returned that money when this story broke, in October 2017.
If you’re planning on doing something bad in Manhattan, make sure to keep your campaign donations up to date.