For nearly eight years, Cy Vance has served as district attorney for New York County. He was preceded by legendary Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, who served in the position for nearly 45 years, and was often described as “beyond reproach.” Those were no doubt tough shoes to fill.

And now Vance is arguably facing the worst crisis of his tenure.

At issue are two cases in which Vance failed to prosecute, and both are absolutely explosive. The first involved two of President Trump’s adult children: Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.

The second revolved around Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful movie executives in the nation, or at least he was until this week when several actresses and former employees accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances, some of which may have been criminal.

But sources, including current and former Vance employees, say they have the utmost confidence in the DA’s legal ethics. They do not believe there was any impropriety, and also insist this was not an example of Vance giving anyone special treatment. They say Vance has “tremendous confidence in his career prosecutors” who do the day-to-day work of bringing cases against Manhattan’s criminals – even the high profile ones.

In the Trump case, WNYC Radio, ProPublica and the New Yorker reported last week that Vance’s office failed to prosecute the Trump offspring after they were accused of misrepresenting the success of the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium to investors.

Trump’s lawyer, who was granted a meeting with Vance, had also contributed more than $50,000 to Vance’s campaigns. Those donations have since been returned.

This week The New Yorker Magazine revealed an NYPD wiretap where Weinstein appears to admit to groping an Italian Actress, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, in 2015.

The forcible touching incident was investigated by Vance and his office, and they ultimately declined to prosecute Weinstein. In light of all the new information that has come out about Weinstein’s serial behavior, that would seem to be the wrong decision.

But one former Assistant District Attorney, or ADA said: “I never would have gone forward on just that tape.”

The former prosecutor, who is “not a fan” of Vance, claims the tape did not provide enough evidence to prosecute. Vance also said as much, through Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the chief ADA, or the number two in the Manhattan DA’s office.

Agnifilo would have overseen any investigation related to Weinstein. She also previously served as the deputy chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, so she arguably knows a thing or two about the burden of proof in such cases. 

Martha Bashford is the current head of the Sex Crimes Unit, and would have made the initial determination on whether to move forward against Weinstein in 2015. Bashford was described as someone who has “the highest scruples,” and also someone who “does not care at all” about politics and would not have been intimidated by a boldface name like Weinstein’s.

When the audio of the NYPD sting involving Weinstein and Gutierrez surfaced, Agnifilo said that her “seasoned prosecutors” were not afforded the opportunity to “counsel investigators” on what was necessary to prove a crime under New York Law before the audio was captured in a sting.

An NYPD source then told NY1’s Dean Meminger that the investigators has handed prosecutors a solid case, and this was a complete failure by the Manhattan DA’s office to “protect women from a known predator.”

While it is unusual for this type of dispute to play out in public, prosecutors say this happens all the time between their office and the police department.

A common refrain from police officers is: “I answer to the Captain, not to you.” In essence, cops care about an arrest, and prosecutors care about a winnable case. Those two distinct goals come into conflict all the time, and that is because the standards for each differ greatly.

“Probable cause that a crime has been committed” is the standard for an arrest. “Reasonable Cause a felony has been committed” is the standard for an indictment, and “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard for a conviction. The gulf between an arrest and a conviction can sometimes be as wide as the “grand canyon.”

The International Business Times also reported that Attorney David Boies, who is working with Weinstein’s legal team had donated tens of thousands of dollars to Vance’s campaigns, including $10,000 after Vance failed to prosecute Weinstein in 2015.

Other lawyers connected to Trump have also made donations to Vance, so while there may not be any impropriety, some acknowledge there is at least the appearance of one, and the Manhattan DA’s office needs to be super careful about that.

No mater how you cut it, the timing looks awful.

Two stories within a week suggesting Vance dropped cases. One against Weinstein, who is arguably the most vilified man in America right now, and the other against Trump, who is perennially vilified in New York progressive circles.

But Vance’s supporters say it’s wrong to see a pattern here. Vance is a “very ethical man,” they insist, and both cases were independently investigated by two completely separate units within the DA’s office by the career prosecutors Vance trusts and relies upon. A lot of factors go into whether a case can be prosecuted successfully.

As for campaign contributions that look suspicious, they should always be scrutinized and reported, but it doesn’t necessarily prove corruption here or in any other case.

In fact, that’s the whole crux of the debate on campaign finance reform. What’s legal doesn’t always look right.

Vance also came from the private practice, which is a small community in New York of high-powered attorneys who know each other and raise money for various causes.

Is it a bit too nauseatingly chummy? Probably. But it’s hard to tell someone who their friends should be. And certainly Vance should be smarter about granting a meeting to a friend with business before his office like he did with Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz, because I think we all know that attorneys for most defendants in Manhattan are not granted that same privilege.