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Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey this week created a special task force to investigate sexual assault in the entertainment industry. The announcement came as a growing number of people spoke out to allege sexual assault or harassment by powerful producers and actors in Hollywood. Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson joins Megan Thompson from Los Angeles with more.
This week Los Angeles County district attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of a special task force to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry. This move follows a series of serious on-the-record accusations against a growing number of producers and performers including producer Harvey Weinstein writer-director James Toback, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Louis C.K.. For more on how the task force will operate, I am joined by Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Can you talk to us about how a task force like this might work?
Well, she just put it together so we don't know all the details yet. So far they've actually said that they don't have any cases that have been referred to them by law enforcement. But that doesn't mean that they haven't been coming in by private means. So the first thing to do is to put the team together then start coordinating with all the law enforcement agencies. We have a police department, a sheriff department, our state departments and they're going to have to coordinate with places like New York as well. This will be a long acting program to try to evaluate what's going on here.
Incidents of harassment and assault obviously aren't just limited to Hollywood the entertainment industry. Do you think that the focus of this task force is is just a start?
I think probably it's just a start but it's a real statement that here in Los Angeles or Hollywood Land that there are so many allegations that you could make a priority for our district attorney's office. They have a task force focused just on this. Don't forget we have problems with gangs, we have white collar crime, We have the wide range of crime and yet this is so significant that our D.A. feels like she needs a task force.
Can you talk about how effective a task force like this can actually be? I mean you are a former federal prosecutor. What are the challenges of prosecuting cases like this?
I think people should sort of reserve judgment at this point because we actually don't know if any charges will be brought. Don't forget in California, unlike in New York, we had a statute of limitations on sex crimes until the beginning of this year. Then the next challenge is do you have a victim that a jury is going to find to be credible because these are old charges. And the longer somebody waited to come forward the more difficult sometimes it is to prove it.
If somebody has been the victim of an assault or some sort of harassment situation is there any kind of advice that you would give to them if they make the decision that they do want to step forward and seek help from a task force like this?
My advice is to contact law enforcement or directly the task force at the district attorney's office. And frankly if you can do it, bring a lawyer with you. There are lawyers out there who are trained to help victims in these type of cases. Now I know she gets a lot of notoriety and it's not all good. But you know that is sort of what a Gloria Allred does – she brings the victim's forth and then they go forth from then and she prevents them from being bullied. There's a lot in the process that's intimidating to victims. They feel like 'I'm just going to put it behind me.' I don't really want to deal with it but they need help and they also need I think some support some counseling some victim assistance. And the district attorney's office has actually set up to provide that.
Professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School thank you so much for joining us.
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