Longtime prosecutor takes over Weinstein case in NYC

Manhattan's District Attorney has replaced the lead prosecutor overseeing the Harvey Weinstein rape investigation, nearly half a year into the probe, two people familiar with the case said Thursday.

Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, a longtime prosecutor who previously led the ultimately abandoned sex assault probe against former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, took over at the beginning of April.

She has worked for the district attorney's office nearly 30 years on many major cases, including winning conviction in a notorious decades-old case of a missing child pictured on milk cartons.

Illuzzi-Orbon replaces Maxine Rosenthal, another longtime prosecutor, they said. The people had knowledge of the case but were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing probe and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Manhattan district attorney's office and the NYPD have been looking into allegations made by at least two women who say Weinstein assaulted them. One, "Boardwalk Empire" actress Paz de La Huerta, said he raped her twice in 2010. A second, Lucia Evans, said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Miramax office in Manhattan in 2004; at the time, Evans was a college student trying to break into acting.

Both women detailed their allegations publicly in Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. The Associated Press doesn't usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault.

Weinstein is also under criminal investigation in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and London but has not been charged. Since last fall, scores of women including famous actresses have accused him of sexual harassment, assault and rape. He was fired from the production company he started with his brother. The business recently filed for bankruptcy.

Weinstein has not been charged criminally and denies any non-consensual sex. Weinstein's attorney Benjamin Brafman, who also represented Strauss-Kahn when he was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, said he welcomed Illuzzi-Orbon to the case.

"In all of my prior professional dealings with her, she has acted as a consummate professional, as have both Marsha Bashford and Maxine Rosenthal," he said. Bashford is the chief of the office's sex crimes bureau.

The Strauss-Kahn case was ultimately dropped after prosecutors lost faith in the accuser. The hotel maid's attorney Kenneth Thompson, who later became Brooklyn District Attorney before dying in 2016, insisted she was telling the truth, had been wronged by prosecutors and was unfairly maligned.

Illuzzi-Orbon also headed a trial in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, a touchstone of the national missing-children's movement. The first murder case ended in a jury deadlock.

Illuzzi-Orbon resigned briefly in 2015 to run for Staten Island District Attorney. When she lost the election, she returned to Manhattan, and was added to the re-trial in the Etan Patz case. Suspect Pedro Hernandez was convicted of murder in 2017 and is serving 25 years to life.

Illuzzi-Orbon didn't return a call seeking comment. A spokesman for the District Attorney's office had no comment.