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What a Difference Two Years Make

October 16, 2017

Poor Cyrus Vance. The normally buttoned-up Manhattan District Attorney seemed so unnerved by media criticism for his decision in 2015 not to charge Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein with groping Italian actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez that he took the bizarre step last week of blaming the NYPD.

In a statement, his chief assistant said cops had arranged “a controlled call” between Gutierrez and Weinstein “without our knowledge or input,” so that the office had been unable to “counsel [NYPD] investigators on what was necessary … to prove a misdemeanor sex crime.”

Significantly, when Vance chose not to charge Weinstein two years ago, he offered no criticism of the NYPD.

More significantly, nobody — including Gutierrez — criticized Vance’s decision not to indict him, although the case was thoroughly reported by the Daily News.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialThe New York Times, which recently exposed Weinstein as a sexual predator and is now hitting Vance pretty good for not having charged him, kissed the incident off at the time, leaving reporting to the tabloids.

Vance’s decision not to charge Weinstein seems consistent with his dropping the 2011 indictment of French Socialist Party politician Dominique Strauss Kahn. Back then, the NYPD pulled Strauss Kahn off a plane to Paris after a maid at the Sofitel hotel in midtown had accused him of sexual assault and attempted rape. After indicting DSK, Vance recommended charges be dismissed due to doubts about the maid’s credibility.

Ah, what a difference two years make. Now the media is chewing up Vance for what he didn’t do then. Under the headline, “Prosecutor Declined to Pursue Allegations,” the Times cited a linkage between Vance’s decision not to indict Weinstein and donations by two of his lawyers “with ties to Mr. Vance,” as the Times put it, one of whom had been Vance’s law partner decades before.

The Times also went after Vance for a supposed linkage in his not indicting Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in 2012. It headlined that story: “Vance Returned Trump’s Lawyer’s Donation After Reporters’ Questions.” The story referred to a $32,000 donation by Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz, which the Times said Kasowitz had made in January 2012, and which implied that the contribution was made either just before or during the investigation. The Times subsequently corrected itself, noting Kasowitz’s contribution was made in January 2013 — five months after Vance closed the case.

That’s quite a distinction.

Contrast Vance’s restraint in not charging Weinstein to the actions of former North Carolina District Attorney Michael Nifong. In 2006, consumed with attention by the national media, Nifong indicted three Duke lacrosse players on sexual assault charges, based on testimony of an escort/stripper who later changed her story. The charges were subsequently dropped. Nifong was subsequently disbarred.

Perhaps the most important lesson Cy Vance has learned from the Harvey Weinstein brouhaha is not to mess with the NYPD.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittHis criticism of its actions in the Weinstein case led Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Stephen Davis to issue an immediate and forceful rebuttal."The case was carried out by experienced detectives and supervisors from NYPD's Special Victims Unit. The detectives used well established investigative techniques. The recorded conversation with the subject corroborates the acts that were the basis for the victim's complaint to the police a day earlier. … This evidence, along with other statements and timeline information, was presented to the office of the Manhattan District Attorney."

Stick that in your coffee, Cy, the department seemed to be saying.

Public relations is a big deal at the NYPD. You don’t become the greatest police department in the world without a top public relations man — or woman. The NYPD has had both, as well as some dogs.

DCPI, as the office is known, is staffed round the clock with more than twice the number of people as the city’s five district attorneys’ offices combined. Vance’s spokeswoman, Joan Vollero, for example, is apparently so overworked she forgets to return phone calls.

In contrast, DCPI officers often seem world-weary. They’ve seen it all and can be kind or cruel, following the tone set by the police commissioner and his man at DCPI.

When Ray Kelly, who frightened just about everyone at Police Plaza, banned Your Humble Servant as a “security threat” in 2006, one DCPI officer became especially obnoxious. He’s still around.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialEven a powerful newspaper flinched under Kelly. In 2009, a DCPI sergeant cursed and threatened to attack a Daily News reporter for asking questions about a subway stabbing. Half a dozen people witnessed his tirade. No one intervened. No apology was ever offered; no public reprimand given to the sergeant. The News wrote no story about an attack on one of its own.

Back in 1995, Rudy Giuliani became incensed that Bill Bratton, then his police commissioner, was receiving more favorable headlines than he was. Giuliani then fired DCPI’s deputy commissioner and ordered the transfer of all 35 cops who worked there.

That deputy commissioner returned under Bratton in 2014, this time as Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter Terrorism. His name: John Miller.

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