Weinstein faces sex charges in prosecution amid #MeToo

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Sexual Misconduct WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein is escorted into court, Friday, May 25, 2018, in New York. The movie mogul turned himself in at a police precinct earlier Friday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Flinching when he heard himself described as a man who used power to prey on women, Harvey Weinstein was charged Friday with rape and another sex felony in the first prosecution to result from the wave of allegations against him that sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct.

CGTN’s John Terret has the latest.

Seven months after the accusations destroyed his career and catalyzed the #MeToo movement, the once-powerhouse movie producer turned himself in to face the charges. They stem from encounters with two of the dozens of women who have accused him of sexual misdeeds ranging from harassment to assault.

“This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” Manhattan Assistant Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court. Weinstein, who had been staring grimly ahead, grimaced and raised his eyebrows as he heard her words.

Weinstein has consistently denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Friday that he would fight to get the charges dismissed, saying they’re factually unsupported and constitutionally flawed.

And he began to take aim at the accusations and accusers, noting that the alleged attacks weren’t reported to police when they happened and suggesting potential jurors wouldn’t believe the women.

“Assuming,” he added, “we get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case.”

Asked about the raft of allegations that made Weinstein a symbol of sexual misconduct, Brafman said: “Bad behavior is not on trial in this case.”

“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,” the attorney said.

Weinstein was released on $1 million bail, with constant electronic monitoring and a ban on traveling beyond New York and Connecticut. He left through a courthouse back door less than three hours after his arrest.

By agreeing to surrender, he had sped through the city’s criminal justice system, where most people accused of rape spend hours in police stations and holding cells before going to court, and he arrived with a $1 million cashier’s check for his pre-negotiated bail.

He has until Wednesday to decide whether to testify before a grand jury.

As he turned himself in, Weinstein, 66, found himself surrounded by lights and cameras in a spectacle he couldn’t control.

“You sorry, Harvey?” came a shout from a throng of media as the once powerful movie mogul walked into a lower Manhattan courthouse in handcuffs, his head bowed. Asked “what can you say?” he mildly shook his head and softly said “no.”

Weinstein was charged with rape and a criminal sex act, both felonies.

Weinstein lumbered into a police station early Friday wearing a blazer and carrying books including “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution,” about the Broadway musical duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and “Elia Kazan,” about the famed film director.

The rape charge relates to a woman who was not identified and does not appear to be among the people who have told their stories publicly. A court complaint says Weinstein confined her in a Manhattan hotel room and raped her in 2013.

The criminal sex act charge stems from a 2004 encounter between Weinstein and Lucia Evans, a then-aspiring actress who has said the Hollywood mogul forced her to perform oral sex on him during a daytime meeting in his office in 2004. She was among the first women to speak out about the producer.

“This is an emotional moment. We are relieved and grateful that justice is coming, but we also mourn the cases where it didn’t,” her lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Evans told The New Yorker in a story published in October that she repeatedly told Weinstein to stop but “didn’t want to kick him or fight him.”

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing, and authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Brafman also has said that Weinstein was a “principal target” of an investigation being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

New York City police also have been investigating allegations by “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police last fall that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010 when she was drinking and not in a condition to give consent.

Other women who have publicly accused Weinstein of criminal sexual assaults include the film actress Rose McGowan, who said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who said he raped her in her New York apartment in 1992, and Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe, who said he attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008. Another aspiring actress, Mimi Haleyi, said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his New York apartment in 2006.

Until the scandal, Weinstein was among the most influential forces in American film.

Miramax, the company he founded with his brother, Bob, in 1979 helped reinvent independent cinema with hits like “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love.” Their later company, Weinstein Co., distributed Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.”

But there were rumors in Hollywood for years about Weinstein’s pursuits of young actresses. He narrowly escaped prosecution in 2015 when an Italian model went to New York City police and accused him of groping her during a meeting.

Police detectives set up a sting where the woman recorded herself confronting Weinstein. After a short investigation, though, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. decided not to bring charges because of a lack of evidence.

Vance — a Democrat who faced public pressure from women’s groups to prosecute Weinstein this time — said Friday’s charges “reflect significant progress in this active, ongoing investigation.”

The public allegations against Weinstein helped prompt a broad public outcry about sexual misconduct.

Major figures in media and politics have lost their jobs or had their reputations tarnished by allegations that they subjected women to unwanted advances or outright assaults. They include TV hosts Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, comedian Louis C.K, Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, chef Mario Batali, casino magnate Steve Wynn and, most recently, Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Story by The Associated Press