The lead NYPD detective investigating Harvey Weinstein told an alleged sex-assault victim she could delete items from cellphones used to communicate with the movie mogul but should not tell prosecutors, the Manhattan district attorney’s office revealed on Wednesday.
The disclosure followed the dismissal last week of one charge against Weinstein because of evidence that alleged victim Lucia Evans had told a friend the alleged coerced oral sex was consensual, and top investigator Det. Nicholas DiGaudio had kept the conflicting statement a secret.
The NYPD took DiGaudio off the case, and the new disclosure appears less damaging than last week’s because the victim — an unnamed woman Weinstein allegedly raped in 2013 — ignored the detective, hired a lawyer and turned over her cellphones without deletions, the DA said.
But Weinstein attorney Ben Brafman, who intends to seek dismissal of all charges, said it was more evidence the entire case has been contaminated.
“This new development even further undermines the integrity of an already deeply flawed indictment,” Brafman said.
Weinstein, 66, has been accused in news reports over the past year of forcing actresses and others to submit to sexual encounters. He was charged with attacking three women until the Evans charges were dropped, but he still faces up to life in prison for two attacks. He has denied any nonconsensual sex.
The latest disclosure highlighted tensions between the DA’s office and the NYPD, which in the past has complained prosecutors were insufficiently aggressive in cases involving Weinstein.
In a letter to Brafman, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said that after news broke about the dismissal of charges involving Evans last week, prosecutors were contacted by a lawyer for the alleged rape victim, who described DiGaudio’s advice about personal data on her phones.
After telling her to “delete anything she did not want anyone to see” before turning over the phones, the letter said, DiGaudio added, “We just won’t tell Joan.”
In a criminal case, secretly tampering with evidence can create legal problems in court for prosecutors.
The NYPD has said it is conducting an internal-affairs investigation of DiGaudio’s conduct. A police spokesman on Wednesday did not comment on the detective, but said the evidence against Weinstein is “compelling and strong.”