FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2011 file photo, film producer Harvey Weinstein poses for a photo in New York. Weinstein has asked a judge to toss out a federal sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against him and he's invoking the words of some A-list actresses in his defense. (AP Photo/John Carucci, File)

Feds Investigating Whether Weinstein’s Alleged Abuse Violated Federal Law

May 24, 2018
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by Leila Miller Tow Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowships

Manhattan federal prosecutors are investigating whether Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged acts of sexual abuse violated federal law, an indication of heightened criminal scrutiny following dozens of misconduct allegations.

The Wall Street Journal, which broke news of the investigation yesterday, reported that prosecutors have been looking into whether Weinstein lured women into crossing state lines in order to commit a sex crime.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office of the Southern District of New York, which is heading the probe, declined to comment. Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he had met with prosecutors in “an attempt to dissuade them from proceeding.”

“Mr. Weinstein has always maintained that he has never engaged in nonconsensual acts,” Brafman said.

The probe is the latest of the fallout since October, when stories in the New York Times and The New Yorker featured several women who alleged Weinstein had harassed and sexually assaulted them. Since then, more than 100 women have come forward with similar stories. In Weinstein, FRONTLINE investigates how the Hollywood movie mogul allegedly maintained this pattern of abuse for decades —and worked with those around him to silence his accusers.

The newly reported federal investigation expanded an earlier criminal inquiry by Manhattan prosecutors into whether Weinstein had committee financial fraud. Last year, the New York Times reported that prosecutors were investigating transactions at an AIDS charity auction where proceeds went to a theatre staging a Broadway musical produced by Weinstein.

As the federal investigation unfolds, police in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Manhattan, and London have investigated more than 20 allegations against the producer. No criminal charges have been filed yet. The office of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is investigating a sexual assault allegation by actress Paz de la Huerta who has accused Weinstein of rape. In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a review of Vance’s decision not to prosecute Weinstein after a New York Police Department sting that secretly recorded Weinstein apologizing to Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez for groping her.

In a statement for Weinstein, Vance’s office said they acted professionally and that what emerged from the audio and subsequent investigation was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law.

In Los Angeles County, prosecutors are currently reviewing five police investigations, including an Italian actress’ allegation of rape in 2013. Besides the open criminal probes, Weinstein also faces civil lawsuits for sexual harassment and sex trafficking by American actress Ashley Judd and British actress Kadian Noble.

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