Harvey Weinstein charged with rape, sex crime in New York

Harvey Weinstein charged with rape, sex crime in New York
PHOTO: AFP

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was charged with rape and a sex crime in New York on Friday, in what was hailed a landmark for the #MeToo movement, nearly eight months after his career imploded in a blaze of accusations of misconduct.

The former mogul -- once the toast of Hollywood, whose films won scores of Oscars -- smirked as he was escorted into a Manhattan courtroom in handcuffs to face the first criminal charges lodged against him.

Weinstein, a 66-year-old twice-married father of five, was charged with rape in the first and third degrees, stemming from an attack on a woman in 2013, and a criminal sex act against another woman in 2004. Neither victim was named.

"Today's charges reflect significant progress in this active, ongoing investigation," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, thanking "brave survivors" for coming forward and urging others to call a sex crimes hotline.

Standing alongside his defence attorney, the former Tinseltown powerbroker looked glum during the brief arraignment, agreeing to post bail at $1 million cash, surrender his passport and be fitted with a GPS monitoring device.

Weinstein's career went down in flames in October over sexual assault allegations following explosive articles in The New York Times and New Yorker, which sparked a sexual harassment reckoning across the United States, in multiple industries.

Nearly 100 women have now accused Weinstein of crimes ranging from sexual harassment to assault and rape going back decades.

New York authorities have been investigating the disgraced producer for months, under growing pressure from Hollywood actresses to bring him to justice, and their probes are ongoing.

Weinstein already faces a slew of civil lawsuits, is reportedly under federal investigation, and his former studio has filed for bankruptcy.

But these were the first criminal charges against Weinstein.

Defence attorney Ben Brafman told reporters that his client would plead not guilty and still denied any non-consensual sexual activity.

"We intend to move very quickly to dismiss these charges," Brafman said.

"Bad behaviour is not on trial," he added. "Mr Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood."

His case was adjourned until July 30.

Here are the actresses who've accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, abuse

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    In part two of the New York Times' explosive expose chronicling decades of sexual harassment allegations waged against studio mogul Harvey Weinstein- several actresses went public with their stories for the first time.

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    Gwyneth Paltrow: "I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified," Paltrow said about her experience as a then 22-year-old on the set of 1996's Emma.

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    Anjelina Jolie recalled a similar incident. "I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did," Jolie said in an e-mail to the Times.

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    Italian film star Asia Argento, the 42-year-old daughter of iconic horror director Dario Argento, said Weinstein forced oral sex on her 20 years ago. She told the publication she had maintained her silence until now for fear that Weinstein would "crush" her.

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    Model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a former Miss Italy finalist, told the New Yorker she met Weinstein March 2015 at a reception for a show he was producing in New York. She said Weinstein "lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt" at a meeting in his offices in Tribeca.

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    French actress Judith Godreche met Weinstein for breakfast at a hotel in 1996. He later invited her up to his suite to see the "view". But he later asked for a massage and pressed himself against Godreche, even pulling off her sweater.

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    Rosanna Arquette: In the early 1990s, Weinstein asked the young actress to stop by a hotel in Beverly Hills to pick up a script. She remembers telling him "I'm not that girl," after he asked her for a massage.

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    Rose McGowan: The actress reportedly reached a US$100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997, after an "episode in a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival".

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    Ashley Judd: The accused Weinstein of inviting her to his hotel room, appearing in a bathrobe, offering her a massage, and asking her if she wanted to watch him take a shower.

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    Former actress and screenwriter Louisette Geiss held a news conference where she alleged that her encounter with Weinstein took place at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He invited her to his office for a meeting, and soon excused himself and returned naked, wearing only a bathrobe. He later asked that she watch him masturbate.

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    Mira Sorvino: The actress starred in several of Weinstein's films, told The New Yorker that he sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into a physical relationship while they worked together.

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    British actress Romola Garai told The Guardian she felt "violated" following a meeting with Harvey Weinstein in his London hotel room when she was 18 in which he was in a bathrobe. Garai said that once she was in the room the two had a brief discussion about film but she felt "belittled" by his "abuse of power."

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    Model and actress Cara Delevingne accused Weinstein of propositioning her and attempting to kiss her after a meeting about an upcoming film. "He said to me that if I was gay or decided to be with a woman especially in public, that I'd never get the role of a straight woman or make it as an actress in Hollywood," Delevingne said in a statement.

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    French actress Lea Seydoux became the latest in a string of female Hollywood stars speaking out against Weinstein. Also subjected to his advances, she alleged "everyone" in Hollywood "knew what Harvey was up to".

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    In a revealing piece written for Variety, Heather Graham revealed that Weinstein asked her to have sex with him in exchange for being included in his movie in the early 2000s. He told Graham that he had an agreement with his wife in which he could sleep with whomever he wanted whenever he was out of town. "I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy," Graham wrote.

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    Kate Winslet has revealed in an interview with Los Angeles times why she didn't thank the disgraced film producer in her 2009 Oscars speech. "That was deliberate. That was absolutely deliberate," Winslet said. "I remember being told. 'Make sure you thank Harvey if you win'. And I remember turning around and saying, 'No I won't. No I won't.' ... If people aren't well-behaved, why would I thank him?""

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    British actress Lysette Anthony said he had attacked her in her London home in the late '80s. Anthony said It happened after she had got to know the producer when she starred in the 1982 film Krull, according to The Telegraph.

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    Kate Beckinsale also came forward about Weinstein sexually harassing her when she was just 17 and hampering her career. She posted her statement to Instagram with a picture of her as a teenager and wrote that when she was called to meet him at the Savoy Hotel in London, Weinstein opened the door in a bathrobe. She left the room "uneasy but unscathed".

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    Actress Eva Green has said she felt "shocked and disgusted" after an encounter with Weinstein in which she allegedly had to "push him off" during a business meeting. The Bond girl gave her statement after her mother told a French radio that her daughter "was a victim of this horrible man".

Handcuffs

The former studio boss surrendered to police shortly before 7:30 am (1130 GMT) wearing a white shirt, pale blue sweater and dark blazer, as dozens of television cameras and photographers mobbed the street outside.

He walked into the station clutching several books, apparently including the Rodgers and Hammerstein biography "Something Wonderful" and a volume on late director Elia Kazan.

He left handcuffed, without the books, after his mugshots and fingerprints were taken.

Police said he was "arrested, processed and charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct."

Out on bail, Weinstein's travel will be restricted to New York and the neighbouring state of Connecticut.

Photo: AFP

'Inevitable descent to hell'

Former actress Lucia Evans, who said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004, is thought to be one of the women whose cases triggered the New York charges.

New York police previously confirmed another credible rape allegation after "Boardwalk Empire" actress Paz de la Huerta accused the former producer of raping her twice at her New York apartment in late 2010.

Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are among more than two dozen actresses who say they were sexually harassed by the producer. A few, including Asia Argento and Rose McGowan, said they were raped.

"I have to admit I didn't think I would see the day that he would have handcuffs on him," McGowan told ABC television.

"Today Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell. We, the women, finally have real hope for justice," tweeted Argento.

The Time's Up anti-harassment movement -- launched on January 1 -- said the producer "shattered the lives of an untold number of women," adding that it looked "forward to seeing justice prevail."

The #MeToo movement has seen people around the world come forward with cases of sexual mistreatment, leading to the downfall of powerful men across industries, including Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.

Weinstein has reportedly spent months in treatment for sex addiction. His fashion designer wife, Georgina Chapman, has left him.

But for all the media circus, experts warn that any trial -- let alone a criminal conviction -- would still be a long way off.

Sexual assault cases, particularly those that allegedly happened years ago, are notoriously difficult to prosecute and often lack substantive forensic evidence.

Weinstein's lawyer is one of America's most celebrated criminal defence attorneys. His past clients include former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who escaped criminal prosecution for alleged sexual assault in 2011.

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