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Lead detective told Weinstein witness to delete cell phone messages

(CNN) The former lead detective handling the New York sex crimes investigation against Harvey Weinstein told an accuser to delete cell phone messages prior to turning her phones over to authorities, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

NYPD Detective Nicholas DiGaudio advised the woman that she should delete "anything she did not want anyone to see before providing the phones to our office," according to a letter from the DA's office to Weinstein's attorney, Benjamin Brafman.

The three charges against Weinstein relating to the woman include predatory sexual assault, rape in the first degree and rape in the third degree, stemming from a March 2013 incident.

The district attorney learned of the incident from the complainant's attorney last week, after DiGaudio was accused of coaching a witness. The detective is now the subject of an internal NYPD investigation and removed from the Weinstein case. DiGaudio could not be reached for comment.

It's unclear what the revelation may mean to the case, but the NYPD maintains the evidence against Weinstein is "compelling and strong."

"The NYPD will continue its work with the prosecution to deliver justice for the courageous survivors who have bravely come forward," Sgt. Jessica McRorie wrote in an email to CNN.

NYPD Detective Nicholas DiGaudio, right, escorts Harvey Weinstein into court in May 2018.

In an interview last Friday, the complainant -- identified in documents as "Complainant 2" to conceal her identity -- told prosecutors she didn't delete anything from her phone and instead retained a lawyer for counsel. The phone is currently in the possession of prosecutors. She also maintains that neither DiGaudio, nor anyone else, influenced her testimony or evidence she provided, according to the DA's letter to Weinstein's attorney.

"This new development even further undermines the integrity of an already deeply flawed Indictment of Mr. Weinstein," Brafman said in a statement to CNN responding to Wednesday's disclosure.

"These issues undermine the fundamental integrity of the judicial process," Brafman said.

"This case is falling apart because it is a fundamentally bad case and bad cases eventually fall apart even when law enforcement officials try and stack the deck against the accused."

Michael Palladino, the union president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, says Detective DiGaudio was sensitive to potentially revictimizing Complainant 2 and that the district attorney's office acknowledges that "DiGaudio did not influence the victim's evidence or testimony."

"The Manhattan DA's office needs to enter the 21st century. This is the age of technology. People keep loads of personal info on their phones that they prefer remains confidential," he said in a statement.

"A woman should not have to surrender confidential intimate information that's immaterial to the case to defend herself against a sexual predator," Palladino said.

"This appears to be just another smear campaign against Detective DiGaudio to cover up the Manhattan DA's own incompetence."

The New York District Attorney's handling of a 2015 sexual abuse investigation involving the disgraced media mogul was scrutinized by the public and politicians alike.

Back in October, The New Yorker released an audio recording of Weinstein speaking with model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez as part of a 2015 sting operation. The NYPD set up the sting after Gutierrez told authorities that Weinstein groped her the day before.

In the recording, Weinstein makes potentially incriminating comments to Gutierrez, but Weinstein was not arrested or charged with a crime at the time.

After the tape's release, the New York Police Department and the Manhattan DA's office traded public finger-pointing.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to six felony sex crimes -- two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape, one first-degree criminal sex act charge and one criminal sex act.

The charges stem from allegations from three women, according to court documents.

One criminal sexual act charge was dropped last week.

Weinstein is expected to appear for proceedings at the New York Supreme Court on November 8.

Melanie Schuman, Megan Thomas and Phil Gast contributed to this report