Harvey Weinstein is escorted into court May 25, 2018, in New York. Weinstein surrendered Friday to face rape and other charges from encounters with two women. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Harvey Weinstein Arrested, Charged with Rape and Sex Abuse

May 25, 2018
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by Leila Miller Tow Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowships

Harvey Weinstein, who fell from the top of the Hollywood establishment when sexual harassment and abuse allegations against him surfaced last year, was arrested in New York City on Friday on charges that he raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex.

They are the first criminal charges filed against Weinstein, who surrendered to police this morning and was released on a $1 million-dollar cash bail. His attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters after the arraignment that Weinstein will plead not guilty and that his client has maintained that any sexual activity he engaged in was consensual.

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

Since the New York Times and the New Yorker published accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein in October, over one hundred women have come forward with allegations. For months, criminal probes in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York City and London — as well as a federal investigation disclosed this week —had been investigating more than 20 allegations against him.

The stories from Weinstein’s accusers spurred the global #MeToo movement. Since Weinstein was fired from his now-bankrupt company in October, dozens of high-profile men in the entertainment and news media industries, among other sectors, have been fired or forced to resign following allegations of misconduct.

Weinstein was charged with first-degree and third-degree rape, as well as with first-degree criminal sex act in cases involving two women in 2013 and 2004, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The D.A.’s office has said that it will continue to investigate other allegations.

“Today’s charges reflect significant progress in this active, ongoing investigation. I thank the brave survivors who have come forward, and my Office’s prosecutors who have worked tirelessly on this investigation,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. in a statement.

The victim in the rape case has not been identified publicly. The criminal sex act charge involves then aspiring actress Lucia Evans, who confirmed to the New Yorker on Thursday that she was pressing charges. Lucia Evans told the New Yorker in October that she was a college student when Weinstein approached her at a club in New York in 2004. He later invited her to the Miramax office in Tribeca for a meeting, where she said Weinstein pulled her head down and forced her to perform oral sex.

“I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’ ” she said. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough…. I just sort of gave up. That’s the most horrible part of it, and that’s why he’s been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it’s their fault.”

District attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. had come under fire previously for deciding not to prosecute Weinstein after a 2015 New York Police Department sting secretly recorded him apologizing to Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez for groping her.

At the time, Weinstein hired high-powered defense attorneys to shut down the charges, also employing K2 Intelligence, an intelligence firm specializing in corporate investigations and security. The firm hired Italian private investigators who said that Gutierrez had engaged in prostitution  — an accusation Gutierrez denied — and K2 employees shared this information with prosecutors. In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a review of Vance’s decision not to press charges.

In its documentary Weinstein, FRONTLINE investigated the culture of silence and complicity that enabled Weinstein to continue a pattern of alleged harassment that spanned decades. Models and actresses in Hollywood now say they had told their agents about Weinstein’s behavior. Creative Artists Agency, a major talent firm, has since said in a statement, “We apologize to any person the agency let down.”

Some of Hollywood’s biggest names have admitted they knew about Weinstein’s misconduct. Director Quentin Tarantino has said, “I knew enough to do more than I did,” and that “Everyone who was close to Harvey had heard of at least one of those incidents.”

Paul Webster, who in the 1990s was president of Miramax, Weinstein’s former production company, told FRONTLINE that he was “fully aware that Harvey was a serial womanizer.”

“There’d be times when you’d be kicked out of the suite at the Savoy or the Peninsula Hotel in L.A., and he would entertain,” he said. “But it didn’t take too much brain power to put it together that a man who was so abusive and bullying in every aspect of his life would bring that abuse into the sexual arena. I think, looking back, that I did know and I chose to suppress it.”

Weinstein used nondisclosure agreements to confidentially settle claims with women. Zelda Perkins, Weinstein’s former assistant, told FRONTLINE that she and a colleague — who accused Weinstein of trying to rape her — signed a non-disclosure agreement. They agreed not to speak about the incident in exchange for a financial settlement of around $200,000 each and measures that would protect Miramax employees from harassment.

In a statement to FRONTLINE, Weinstein denied the attempted rape allegation and said that “Ms. Perkins asked for money instead of reporting her claims to the authorities.”

“We were not allowed to speak to anybody obviously, friends, family, press, public, private, about the alleged behavior, but also about our time at Miramax,” Perkins said. “This wasn’t a normal confidentiality agreement. This wasn’t us saying that we weren’t gonna, you know, give away corporate secrets. This was a deeply, personally binding agreement.”

An investigative grand jury will continue to probe other sexual assault allegations against Weinstein and any financial crimes related to him paying women to remain quiet, according to the New York Times. Weinstein’s next court date is June 5.

—Nick Verbitsky contributed reporting.

This story was updated June 2, 2018 to reflect the latest court date.

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