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Exclusive: She says Harvey Weinstein assaulted her. Now she sees parallels between the fallout and the Trump hush money trial


By Elizabeth Wagmeister, CNN

(CNN) — For years, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez says she knew she was being silenced.

It was 2015 when the Italian model says she was assaulted by then movie mogul Harvey Weinstein during a casting meeting. She immediately went to the police to report what happened, assuming law enforcement would help her.

Nearly a decade later, she is still searching for answers – not, she says, about just her attack, but what she says are failures of the criminal justice system and how victims are treated.

“I was 22 years old, in New York City, I had just got here. I had very little, a thousand dollars, in my bank account and I was assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. I reported him and then I just tried to follow the justice and what they told me to do,” Battilana Gutierrez told CNN in a recent interview.

“Now, I know there were so many people against me,” she says.

The alleged efforts to silence her have come into clearer focus for Battilana Gutierrez this month – and not from anything to do with Weinstein, but from the ongoing trial of former President Donald Trump.

Battilana Gutierrez says she sees chilling parallels between the alleged conspiracy surrounding a hush-money payment connected to Trump and what happened to her.

During Trump’s trial, tabloid king David Pecker – who oversaw American Media Inc., the parent company to the influential supermarket magazine, The National Enquirer – testified to buying and suppressing negative stories to help his friend, Trump, win the presidency.

“I said that anything that I hear in the marketplace, if I hear anything negative about yourself or if I hear anything about women selling stories, I would notify Michael Cohen,” Pecker testified he told Trump. “And then he would be able to have them kill in another magazine or have them not be published or somebody would have to purchase them.”

He said on the stand that he also looked out for other powerful men he was close to, professionally or personally – men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, mega talent agent Ari Emanuel and his brother Rahm, who resigned as President Barack Obama’s first Chief of Staff to run for and win the Chicago mayorship.

CNN has reached out to representatives for Schwarzenegger, Ari and Rahm Emanuel for comment.

But another powerful figure in Pecker’s world who never came up in the Trump trial was Weinstein.

“It would be very interesting to see if he had to speak about the Harvey Weinstein trial,” Battilana Gutierrez said of Pecker.

‘What do you want?’

Battilana Gutierrez says she was targeted by the National Enquirer in a “catch-and-kill” story operation in 2015 after she told police in New York City that Weinstein groped her breasts and put his hand up her skirt during a casting meeting.

She tells CNN that she received an offer of $150,000 from The National Enquirer in 2015 to buy her story. She declined the large sum of money.

“The National Enquirer was in touch with me, and they were asking questions: ‘What do you want? What do you want?’ because they were trying to buy my story,” Battilana Gutierrez says. “I kept answering, ‘Nothing.’ I wanted to tell my story, but I wanted to trust someone.”

As she was trying to come forward with her story in 2015, suddenly, she was smeared on the front pages of tabloid magazines.

“I was put under accusation of not being truthful and to be a prostitute or not a perfect victim because I am a model and I work with bikinis and lingerie. It is ridiculous,” she says. “I just got my life destroyed because the media didn’t know how to buy me. They saw that I didn’t want to be silenced, I didn’t want to get money and they just destroyed my credibility.”

Pecker and The National Enquirer’s parent company did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. But during Trump’s trial, Pecker testified to engaging in “catch-and-kill” practices, paying for stories so they would never come to light.

Many of the circumstances surrounding Battilana Gutierrez have previously been reported by journalists who helped crack the Weinstein case open. Battilana Gutierrez has spoken to the media extensively as a prominent face of the Weinstein saga – but up until this conversation with CNN, she has never spoken on-the-record to the media herself about many of these details.

It wasn’t just the tabloid media in 2015 that she says tried to silence her. Battilana Gutierrez tells CNN that lawyers for Weinstein offered her up to $1 million to sign a non-disclosure agreement, once they heard that she was trying to come forward with her allegations.

“I knew that they were trying to offer me $100,000,” Battilana Gutierrez says, detailing the specifics of Weinstein’s alleged settlement offers. “They went up to $300,000, $700,000, $1 million, and I still turned down every time.”

Weinstein’s spokesperson, Juda Engelmayer, told CNN in a statement, “Ms. Gutierrez’ lawyers controlled those meetings and set the terms for it.”

Engelmayer did not respond to CNN’s inquiries specifically regarding Weinstein’s relationship to Pecker, The National Enquirer and their alleged joint efforts to kill Battilana Gutierrez’s story and plant negative pieces about her across the tabloid media.

But his spokesperson did say that Weinstein’s recent overturned conviction has “opened the flood gates for some to get back into the spotlight, whereas it had all but disappeared.”

“Even though he’s in prison and convicted in Los Angeles, Harvey Weinstein’s name alone seems to continue to inspire coverage and attention,” Engelmayer said. Of Battilana Gutierrez, he added, “Harvey wishes her well and hopes only for happiness and success for her.”

Eventually, Battilana Gutierrez did sign a non-disclosure agreement with Weinstein’s legal team. She said she felt she had no choice, after her brother back in Italy was randomly approached by strangers inquiring about her, and she was concerned that her family’s safety was in danger.

Weinstein’s spokesperson did not respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding Battilana Gutierrez’s allegations about her brother being approached in Italy, which she says scared her into ultimately signing the NDA.

Battilana Gutierrez is disregarding her NDA to speak for this interview. She says it is “more important” to share her truth.

A pursuit of justice

Since the initial  reporting by The New Yorker and The New York Times in 2017 that led to his downfall, Weinstein has been charged, convicted and sentenced for sex crimes. In New York, he was first sentenced to 23 years in prison after being convicted of  first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape – guilty verdicts that have now been overturned by the New York Court of Appeals. In Los Angeles, he was sentenced to an additional 16 years in prison for rape and sexual assault.

At Weinstein’s New York sentencing, Judge James Burke said: “This is a first conviction, but it is not a first offense.”

Gutierrez now confirms to CNN that she was an anonymous source for Ronan Farrow, who wrote for the New Yorker, giving him audio of Weinstein apparently admitting to groping her breasts, which was recorded during a NYPD sting operation.

Even with the recording, prosecutors did not move forward with her case, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction.

Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan DA at the time, told CNN via email that he assigned the head of the sex crimes unit to examine Battilana Gutierrez’s case and believed she conducted “a full and detailed investigation” before recommending against prosecution for a number of reasons.

“I accepted her recommendation because I was personally familiar with her experience, judgment and commitment in this area of criminal investigations,” Vance said.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the Weinstein investigation under Vance, but noted that current District Attorney Alvin Bragg is moving forward with a re-trial of Weinstein, after his conviction was overturned last month by the New York Court of Appeals – a decision that sent shockwaves through communities of survivors of sexual assault and marked a stunning set-back for the #MeToo movement.

“As we stated in court, we will retry the case against Harvey Weinstein, and we urge anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault to call us,” a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told CNN in response to this story.

Weinstein’s spokesperson told CNN, “The DA’s office knew all the facts and passed on this case. Had they felt they could pursue it, they would have.”

Buying the story to bury it

Last month, a former editor from the National Enquirer published an essay in New York Times Magazine, sharing what he claims he witnessed during his time at the tabloid, both pertaining to “catch-and-kill” efforts with both Weinstein and Trump. The reporter, Lachlan Cartwright, alleged that in an effort to smear Battilana Gutierrez, attorneys for the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. (AMI), engaged in conversations with the Manhattan DA’s Office.

He doubled down on that claim, telling CNN, “I learned that a top lawyer at AMI, in 2015, had been in touch with the Manhattan DA’s Office and that person had effectively flipped the script and had been telling the DA’s Office that Ambra was trying to sell her story to the National Enquirer, which was the complete opposite of what was going on.”

Cartwright told CNN he learned about this when he served as an anonymous source for the New York Times’ investigation into Weinstein. CNN has not independently verified Cartwright’s claim, and Battilana Gutierrez says while she does not have direct knowledge whether a lawyer for the Enquirer approached the Manhattan DA’s Office, she believes that a “very complicated web of people were [was] working together to destroy me.”

In his email to CNN, Vance did not directly deny Cartwright’s claim, but said, “I have no information that I recall presently that the National Enquirer or anyone representing it spoke with our office about selling a story to the Enquirer.”

Cartwright says that when he worked at the Enquirer, he received a tip in 2015 about Battilana Gutierrez’s police report concerning her allegations against Weinstein. He pitched the story – which would have been a major scoop in a pre #MeToo world – and was surprised when his bosses asked to buy her story, rather than report the story.

“Both Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump were ‘FOPs’ – Friends of Pecker,” Cartwright told CNN. “The Ambra Battilana story is almost a ‘catch-and-kill’ in that I think if she had have agreed for her story to be sold, I don’t think the intention was to publish it. I think the intention was to make sure it wasn’t published.”

In 2017, The New Yorker reported that the National Enquirer shared unpublished material with Weinstein regarding actress Rose McGowan’s rape accusation, giving him a heads up on allegations that would eventually prove to be damning for Weinstein. Speaking to CNN, Cartwright confirms that during his time at the magazine, the Enquirer’s top editor spoke to Weinstein about McGowan.

At the time Battilana Gutierrez filed her 2015 police report, The Weinstein Company was in business with Pecker. Just weeks before Weinstein’s alleged assault on Battilana Gutierrez, Weinstein and Pecker’s companies had signed a deal to create a TV show with the content of the AMI website Radar Online. The show never came to fruition, but the relationship, nevertheless, did benefit Weinstein.

“That meant Harvey Weinstein was a protected species,” Cartwright said, adding, “People within American Media … were working to help Harvey Weinstein and protect him and using the resources of American Media to do so.”

A chance to testify

Nearly a decade after she first came forward with her allegations against Weinstein, Battilana Gutierrez is still continuing her fight for justice – especially as Weinstein’s fate in New York remains unknown with an overturned conviction and he vows to appeal his Los Angeles conviction.

“I have a lot of questions about 2015 that I have never had answers,” she says.

Through Trump’s hush money trial and Weinstein’s continuing legal battles, she sees a common theme: Enormous efforts to silence women, in order to keep influential men in power.

“I never really wanted to be an activist. It was something (that) just came up to me,” she says. “I just felt like I couldn’t close my eyes when I see something that is not right.”

Today, Battilana Gutierrez is on the board of directors at the Model Alliance, a New York- based nonprofit that works towards better treatment of workers in the fashion industry. A working model, she says that her industry is still rife with abuse, despite the efforts of the #MeToo movement.

In 2022, she got the chance to testify about what she says happened to her at Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial – not because her New York case was ever prosecuted, but because Los Angeles prosecutors brought her in as a “prior bad acts” witness, in order to provide more evidence to help establish a pattern of the disgraced movie mogul’s prior pattern of alleged behavior. In that trial, the jury heard Battilana Gutierrez’s recordings with Weinstein.

Soon after the verdicts were handed down in 2022, a juror told this reporter he had been particularly struck by Battilana Gutierrez’s story and would have voted to convict if her experience had been directly connected to a charge against Weinstein.

When the story was recounted to Battilana Gutierrez in CNN’s interview, she became emotional at everything that had passed since her first meeting with Weinstein.

“My whole wish in 2015 was to be helpful for someone,” Battilana Gutierrez now says, filled with anger and hope. “All these years that have been passing for me, knowing that if maybe I could have just (found) the right person to release those recordings, I wouldn’t lose everything I lost.”

Battilana Gutierrez tells CNN that she hopes the New York case is re-tried this fall, as the DA has announced its intention to do so. And if Weinstein’s Los Angeles appeal is successful, she says she would testify again.

She says she won’t stop searching for answers until justice has been served.

“Who was the responsible person that made that happen? Because it wasn’t just him. I know there [are] more people behind him that have positions of power that he was using as well.”

She adds, “Things that are bad – lies – always come out to light.”

CNN’s Jason Kravarik contributed to this story. 

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