New York

Harvey Weinstein Was Nearly Arrested for Groping Model in NYC in 2015: Report

The Manhattan district attorney's office says despite the "horrifying" recording of Weinstein's conversation with the victim, they couldn't bring criminal charges

Harvey Weinstein was nearly arrested by the NYPD in 2015 after he allegedly groped an Italian model in a hotel room, but charges were never brought, according to a published report. 

The Daily Beast reports Ambra Battilana, then 22, was allegedly harassed and groped by Weinstein at his office in Tribeca in March 2015, after she accepted an invitation to see him there a day after meeting him at an event at Radio City Music Hall. He allegedly stuck his hand under her skirt and asked for a kiss.

Battilana fled and went to police with a friend. Special victims unit detectives spoke with her about making a recorded "controlled call" in the hopes that Weinstein would incriminate himself in a phone conversation, according to The Daily Beast. 

Before Battilana could make the call, Weinstein wound up calling her -- and at the detectives' urging, she agreed to meet him the next day at the bar at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. 

SVU detectives watched and recorded their encounter, and Weinstein "basically apologized for what he did" the day before, an NYPD commander told The Daily Beast. 

And almost immediately, Weinstein asked Battliana up to his room. 

[Listen to the audio recording on]

"Just to show you how incorrigible the guy is," the NYPD commander told The Daily Beast.  

Battilana excused herself to use the restroom, where she was met by an SVU detective. Battilana was distressed, but the detective promised to keep surveillance going and that police would move in immediately if Weinstein again tried to grope her.

He would have been caught in the act -- but Battilana panicked and left, The Daily Beast reports. 

When Battilana returned downstairs, Weinstein joined her, and then detectives moved in and took him away for questioning. He asked for a lawyer, and the interviewing stopped there. 

The NYPD was still able to bring the case to the Manhattan district attorney's office. Prosecutors there kept asking SVU questions, and then more questions about the case. 

"They knocked it around about a week, back and forth," the NYPD commander told The Daily Beast. 

The D.A.'s office ultimately decided not to prosecute, saying the available evidence did not support a criminal charge. 

Battilana, meanwhile, reportedly reached a monetary settlement with Weinstein and left town. She was unavailable to comment to The Daily Beast. 

A spokeswoman for Weinstein told The Daily Beast of the incident, "We are pleased this episode is behind us." 

The Daily Beast, citing several sources, attributes some of the hesitation to prosecute Weinstein on the "aftershocks" of the failed high-profile Dominique Strauss-Kahn case in 2011.

Prosecutors may also have gotten even more worried after learning that Battilana had accused a wealthy elderly boyfriend in Italy of forcing her into sex when she was 17; she was also a witness in the prosecution of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, testifying she had witnessed one of his sex parties when she was 19.  

But the Manhattan district attorney's office said in a statement to NBC News Tuesday, "If we could have prosecuted Harvey Weinstein for the conduct that occurred in 2015, we would have. Mr. Weinstein's pattern of mistreating women, as recounted in recent reports, is disgraceful and shocks the conscience." 

The D.A.'s office blamed the NYPD for setting up the controlled call and the meeting without their input. 

"The seasoned prosecutors in our Sex Crimes Unit were not afforded the opportunity before the meeting to counsel investigators on what was necessary to capture in order to prove a misdemeanor sex crime," Chief Assistant DA Karen Friedman-Agnifilo said in the statement. "While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which reuqires prosecutors to establish criminal intent." 

"Subsequent investigative steps undertaken in order to establish intent were not successful," the statement continued. "This, coupled with other proof issues, meant that there was no choice but to conclude the investigation without criminal charges."

The NYPD said in a statment Tuesday that SVU detectives and supervisors 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 follow-up recorded conversation was just one aspect of the case against the subject. This evidence, along with other statements and timeline information was presented to the office of the Manhattan District Attorney," said a representative for the department.

That fallout of The New Yorker expose on Weinstein's alleged sexual assault was growing Tuesday, as The New York Times published new accounts from Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie detailing how he harassed them. 

Weinstein was ousted from his company following The New Yorker article last week. 

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