NEW YORK, May 25
Film mogul Harvey Weinstein appeared in handcuffs in a New York court on Friday to face charges of rape and other sex crimes against two of the scores of women who have accused him of misconduct, ending his reign as a Hollywood kingpin.
Weinstein, the 66-year-old co-founder of the Miramax film studio and the Weinstein Co, intends to plead not guilty to the two counts of rape and one count of a criminal sexual act, his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters outside the Manhattan courthouse.
Prosecutors did not identify the two women, but said the crimes took place in 2004 and 2013. If convicted on the most serious charges, Weinstein could face between five and 25 years in prison.
Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 70 women, with some of the cases dating back decades, has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
The accusations, first reported last year by the New York Times and the New Yorker, gave rise to the #MeToo movement in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in business, government and entertainment of misconduct.
“This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said at Weinstein’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Weinstein, wearing a dark jacket over a blue sweater and white open-collared shirt and dark jeans, appeared pale, and stood next to Brafman, staring into the middle distance while prosecutors described a bail agreement.
Judge Kevin McGrath ordered Weinstein released on $1 million cash bail. The defendant surrendered his US passport and agreed to wear a monitoring device that tracks his location, confining him to the states of New York and Connecticut.
Weinstein earlier turned himself in at a lower Manhattan police station around 7:25 am EDT (1125 GMT). He carried thick books under his right arm, including what appeared to be biographies of Broadway musical legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and Elia Kazan, the director of such classic Hollywood films as ‘On the Waterfront’. About 90 minutes later, Weinstein was led by officers into court in handcuffs, grimacing with his head bowed, his books nowhere in sight, to await arraignment.
The charges followed a months-long investigation that involved the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the New York Police Department.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Weinstein lawyer Brafman signalled that he intends to attempt to undermine the credibility of Weinstein’s accusers.
A jury would not believe the women, Brafman said, “assuming we get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case”.
Actress Rose McGowan, among the first to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, said seeing images of him in handcuffs was surreal.
“I actually did not believe this day would come,” she said on NBC’s ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ programme. “This is a big strike into the heart of abuse of power.”
Entertainment industry heavyweights distanced themselves from Weinstein after the accusations became public. The Weinstein Co’s board fired him and the company filed for bankruptcy in March.
In 2017, he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after racking up Oscars for a string of films that helped define independent cinema in the 1990s, including ‘The Crying Game’, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’. Weinstein was a fixture in elite entertainment circles in Manhattan and Los Angeles until his accusers came forward. He sought treatment for sex addiction at a facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, the New York Times reported.
London’s Metropolitan Police have said they are investigating an allegation of sexual assault against Weinstein, while prosecutors in Los Angeles said in February they were reviewing three accusations of sexual assault against him.
Brafman said in a May court filing that federal prosecutors in New York had opened a separate criminal investigation into the allegations.
The New York charges filed against Weinstein mark the second high-profile prosecution of a once-powerful show business personality in the #MeToo era.
A month ago, comedian Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a onetime friend, one of dozens of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
Cosby’s conviction followed a mistrial last year in his first trial on the same charges. In the retrial, the judge allowed five other accusers to tell similar stories of alleged abuse by the former TV star.
It was unclear whether New York prosecutors would seek to have other Weinstein accusers testify against him.
Actress Ashley Judd last month sued Weinstein, saying he cost her a part in 1998 in the film ‘The Lord of the Rings’ after she rejected his sexual advances, charges that Weinstein has denied.
Other actresses who have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct include Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek. Reuters