This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Catch and Kill" by Ronan Farrow. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What happened between Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and Harvey Weinstein at Tribeca Hotel? Were her allegations true? If so, why didn’t the police charge Weinstein?
In 2015, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez reported Harvey Weinstein’s attempt to rape her at Tribeca Hotel. This had resulted in Weinstein being brought in for questioning by the detectives, but nothing ever came of the incident.
Read more about Ambra Battilana Gutierrez’s encounter with Harvey Weinstein and what happened in its aftermath.
Ambra Battilana Gutierrez on Harvey Weinstein
Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and Harvey Weinstein met at the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, a show produced by Weinstein. At a reception after the show, Weinstein said Gutierrez looked like Mila Kunis and that he wanted to discuss next steps in her career.
When she arrived at his Tribeca office the next morning, Weinstein leered at her body, asking if her breasts were real. He then proceeded to grope her breasts and tried to force his hand up her skirt—behavior which Gutierrez made abundantly clear to Weinstein was unwanted. After she protested, he backed off, but insisted that Gutierrez meet him at the bar at his hotel the next evening.
Traumatized by her encounter with Harvey Weinstein, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez went to the police and told them what happened at the office. Officers from the NYPD’s Special Victims Division came up with a plan for Gutierrez to meet with Weinstein that evening, wearing a recording device that she could use to extract a confession from him. She was frightened, but determined. She knew that going after Weinstein could mean the end of her career, but she was willing to take that risk if it meant stopping him from committing more sexual assaults.
When Ambra Battilana Gutierrez met with Harvey Weinstein the next night at the hotel bar, he suddenly insisted that they go to his penthouse suite (another echo of his operating procedure with McGowan nearly two decades before). Although she was wearing a recording device and there were undercover agents posted at the hotel, she was terrified at the thought of going up to the suite alone with him.
On the elevator ride up, however, she extracted a confession from him. As she protested going up to the room, she demanded to know why he had groped her the day before. His response, caught on tape, was, “Oh, please, I’m sorry, just come on in. I’m used to that. Come on. Please.” With these few words, Weinstein had admitted that he’d assaulted Gutierrez the day before, and that it was part of a longstanding pattern of abuse of women—“I’m used to that.”
A Miscarriage of Justice
After this admission from Harvey Weinstein, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez managed to extricate herself from going up to his suite. When they arrived back in the lobby, the undercover officers (who had been listening to the whole exchange) insisted that Weinstein accompany them back to the police station for questioning, although he was not formally charged.
What he had admitted to on tape was punishable by up to three months in jail. With the audio recording, it seemed like an open-and-shut case for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. But it wasn’t. When Gutierrez was questioned by the Sex Crimes Unit of the DA’s office, they seemed more interested in her personal sexual history and career as a lingerie model than they were about the incident with Weinstein. Two weeks later, the Manhattan DA (notably, a recipient of campaign money from David Boies, a key member of Weinstein’s legal team) announced that he would not be bringing charges against Weinstein.
While the legal case evaporated, the tabloids began running with salacious and untrue stories about Gutierrez: that she had a promiscuous sex life (as if that were somehow relevant), that she had been the mistress of disgraced former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Burlusconi, and even that she had once been a prostitute. These magazines—the Enquirer chief among them—were waging a full-on smear campaign against Gutierrez. Meanwhile, coverage of the Weinstein incident itself simply dried up. The much-feared Weinstein PR machine had gone into full gear.
After the smear campaign by Harvey Weinstein, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez joined the ranks of women who signed NDAs following an assault at the hands of Weinstein. In exchange for a $1 million payment, she was prohibited from speaking about what happened to her as well as her attempt to bring him to justice. She was also ordered to hand over to Weinstein’s attorneys all copies of the audio recording from the attempted sting operation, who would then destroy them.
Recovering the Recording
In an attempt to preserve some record of her ordeal with Harvey Weinstein, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez did not fully comply with the demand that she hand over all copies of the audio. Before handing over the audio to Weinstein’s legal team, she emailed the file to herself at a throwaway email account, then cleared her sent folder. She then downloaded the file onto an old laptop that the attorneys never found, before deactivating the throwaway email account as well. Through this resourceful maneuvering, she had kept the record of her story alive.
When she told the investigative reporter Ronan Farrow about the existence of this audio, he was cautious. His bosses at NBC News warned him that he could land the network (and himself) in legal trouble if Gutierrez transferred the file to him, as he would be encouraging her to illegally violate the NDA she had signed.
But Gutierrez and Farrow found a way around this roadblock. She played him the recording from the old laptop, which he then recorded on his own phone. This technically did not violate the NDA, because no files were transferred. It wasn’t the same recording that Gutierrez had been ordered to destroy—it was a recording of that recording, which made it an entirely new piece of intellectual property, one that was not covered by the NDA. Farrow now had concrete and undeniable proof of Weinstein’s predatory behavior.
But Weinstein wouldn’t go down that easily. He had vast wealth, power, and influence that he could bring to bear to stop any attempt to expose his crimes. As Farrow would learn, Weinstein was fully prepared to fight back—by any means necessary.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Ronan Farrow's "Catch and Kill" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full Catch and Kill summary :
- How Ronan Farrow uncovered rampant sexual abuse and assault by Harvey Weinstein
- How NBC tried to intimidate Farrow into killing the Weinstein story
- How the media and legal systems let Weinstein's abuse continue for decades