Harvey Weinstein is still free.
It’s a refrain I’ve heard countless times over the past several months, delivered with an air of defeat and disbelief. As women continue to bravely come forward, sharing their stories of abuse and harassment at the hands of this oppressive ogre, and as criminal cases stack up against him on both sides of the Atlantic, the sad fact remains that Weinstein is still out there, indulging in spa treatments somewhere outside Phoenix. Public and financial humiliation—along with a light backhand to the face courtesy of a tipsy vigilante—notwithstanding, he has yet to receive his comeuppance.
Whether he ever will is anyone’s guess.
This week, the Los Angeles Country district attorney’s office announced that they would not be pursuing criminal charges against filmmaker James Toback. The LAPD had been investigating five sexual misconduct cases involving The Pick-up Artist director that allegedly occurred between 1978 and 2008, but determined that they fell beyond the statute of limitations. Over three hundred women—including the actresses Rachel McAdams and Selma Blair—have accused Toback of varying degrees of criminality, ranging from violent threats to sexual assault, yet the news means that there are now no outstanding cases against the filmmaker in L.A.
It’s a chilling precedent—especially when you consider that the L.A. County DA is still mulling whether to bring charges against Weinstein after an Italian actress alleged that the disgraced movie mogul raped her in a Beverly Hills hotel room five years ago. Authorities have been examining the evidence against Weinstein for two months now, and according to the Los Angeles Times, “the case is far from overwhelming—the sources said detectives have found little physical evidence of an attack and have been unable to secure proof that Weinstein was at the hotel when the woman says the rape occurred.” Prosecutors would be able to present the stories of other alleged Weinstein victims if the case should go to trial, owing to California state law, though it’s unclear whether or not this would bolster the specific case against him.
There are also open criminal investigations into Weinstein in New York and London, as well as a looming civil rights lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General’s office against The Weinstein Company, claiming it subjected female employees to a hostile work environment in failing to stop Weinstein’s abuse. But if history’s taught us anything, it’s that Weinstein has a way of evading handcuffs.
In 2015, Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez reported to the NYPD that Weinstein groped her during a meeting at his Tribeca office. So the special victims unit set up a sting operation wherein Gutierrez, wearing a wire, met with Weinstein at the bar of the Tribeca Grand Hotel. As The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly reported, Gutierrez was able to get Weinstein to apologize—on tape—for groping her breasts during their previous encounter, but “got scared” and backed out of the mission when he began aggressively inveigling her into a hotel room. Despite, as an NYPD commander attested, bringing forth “a case that was considerably stronger than is routinely needed to convict less illustrious gropers,” the Manhattan DA concluded that “After analyzing the available evidence, including multiple interviews with both parties, a criminal charge is not supported.” Gutierrez wound up settling with Weinstein for a reported $1 million; Weinstein, meanwhile, has maintained his innocence.
Last month, in light of the growing number of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the Manhattan DA would review Gutierrez’s case and determine if further action should be taken. “It is of great concern that sexual assault cases have not been pursued with full vigor by our criminal justice system. Specifically, there are questions about the handling of the 2015 sexual assault case of Ms. Ambra Battilana against Harvey Weinstein,” said Gov. Cuomo. “It is critical not only that these cases are given the utmost attention but also that there is public confidence in the handling of these cases.”
On Wednesday, just two days after the L.A. County DA’s office stated that they would not be charging Toback, it was revealed that they were in the process of “reviewing a sex-crimes case” against the actor Kevin Spacey, who’s been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of people spread across New York, Maryland, and London. Little else is known about the case.
Though the #MeToo movement has created a surge in awareness and increased accountability concerning matters of sexual harassment and assault, it’s thus far been bereft of legal consequences. This cannot continue if real, lasting change is to be achieved.