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Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein is indicted on rape and felony sex act charges by grand jury in New York

The disgraced mogul’s lawyer says his client ‘didn’t invent the Hollywood casting couch’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 2:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 7:19pm

A New York grand jury indicted producer Harvey Weinstein on two counts of rape and another of a criminal sexual act on Wednesday, just days after he surrendered to authorities.

Weinstein is charged with rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree and committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree for alleged forcible sexual acts against two women in 2004 and 2013.

“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jnr said in announcing the indictment. “Our office will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs. The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable. We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand.”

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Weinstein’s attorneys have said that one of the women alleging that he raped her had a 10-year consenting relationship with him during the period of the alleged attacks.

“The announcement of Mr Weinstein’s indictment does not come as a surprise,” said his lawyer Benjamin Brafman. “We also note of course that the indictment merely mirrors the same charges in the criminal court complaint and does not add anything to the case we did not already know.”

We “asked the district attorney for more time so that Mr Weinstein’s attorneys could gather the material needed to properly prepare him for his grand jury testimony, but that request was denied,” Brafman added.

After his arrest Friday, Weinstein was released on US$1 million cash bail and his movements restricted to New York and Connecticut. Weinstein consented to 24-hour-a-day GPS monitoring and a temporary restraining order requested by one accuser.

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Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said in court that Weinstein “used his position and power” to sexually exploit his victims. She said he was being prosecuted for “two separate forcible sexual assaults against two separate women.”

Brafman said the former producer continues to “vehemently deny” any criminal acts. Weinstein, he said, maintains that any sexual acts with the women were consensual and that the charges are “constitutionally flawed.”

Brafman said that if the women are cross-examined before a jury, “the charges will not be believed by 12 people, assuming we will get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case.”

“Mr Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood,” Brafman said. “And to the extent that there is bad behaviour in that industry, that is not what this is about. Bad behaviour is not on trial in this case. It’s only if you intentionally committed a criminal act, and Mr Weinstein vigorously denies that.”

Brafman later said that Weinstein would enter a plea of not guilty and that he planned to file a motion to dismiss the case on behalf of his client.

“We intend to move very quickly to dismiss these charges,” he said. “We believe they are constitutionally flawed. We believe they are not factually supported by the evidence, and we believe that in the end of the process, Mr Weinstein will be exonerated. … We knew that Mr Weinstein was under investigation for more than seven months. He voluntarily surrendered this morning, and we have met all the bail conditions by agreement so we would not have extended court proceedings.”

The charges are the first to result from months of investigations in New York, California and London.

Before Weinstein’s arrival Friday morning, at least 100 reporters and photographers waited outside the New York Police Department’s 1st Precinct station in downtown Manhattan.

Weinstein ignored a din of shouted questions from reporters.

Sources with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity said one of the women involved is a once-aspiring actress who has alleged that Weinstein assaulted her during a meeting at his Miramax office in 2004. Lucia Evans told The New Yorker magazine last year that Weinstein said during a meeting that she’d “be great in Project Runway” before forcing her to perform oral sex.

The second alleged victim’s identity has not been reported.

Weinstein has been accused by more than 80 women of misconduct that includes sexual harassment and rape. Police in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York and London have conducted investigations into more than 20 allegations.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s team has been reviewing two investigations into Weinstein by Beverly Hills police, as well as three Los Angeles Police Department investigations – including an Italian actress’ allegation of rape in 2013.

According to law enforcement sources, detectives believe that case is promising for prosecution because the woman told her story to three people, including a priest, relatively soon after the alleged attack. LAPD detectives also have evidence the woman was a guest at the Beverly Hills hotel where she claims Weinstein attacked her, the sources said. The case does have flaws, they added. Detectives found little physical evidence of an attack and have been unable to secure proof that Weinstein was at the hotel when the woman says the rape occurred.