Harvey Weinstein charged over 2013 rape, 2004 criminal sex act

Disgraced Hollywood powerbroker Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged on Friday with rape and sex crimes on two women, nearly eight months after his career imploded in a blaze of assault accusations that triggered the global #MeToo movement.

The former mogul -- once the toast of Hollywood and whose films won scores of Oscars -- was escorted out of a Manhattan
police station in handcuffs and was expected to appear in court later Friday.

The New York Police Department announced in a brief statement he was "arrested, processed and charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women."

They are the first criminal charges against the twice-married, shamed former titan, who already faces a slew of civil lawsuits, is reportedly under federal investigation and whose former studio has filed for bankruptcy.

"The NYPD thanks these brave survivors for their courage to come forward and seek justice," the police department said.

The 66-year-old former studio boss walked into the downtown Manhattan police station shortly before 7:30 am (1130 GMT) wearing a white shirt, pale blue sweater and dark blazer before a mob of television cameras and photographers.

He stepped out of a black SUV, clutching several books, among them what appeared to be the Rodgers and Hammerstein biography "Something Wonderful" and a book on director Elia Kazan, and looked glum as he walked up the steps into the station.

Weinstein was understood to have had his mugshots and fingerprints taken before being driven away in an SUV from the station, close to his former Miramax office in Tribeca and the townhouse he once shared with his estranged wife.

As part of a bail package negotiated in advance, he will put up $1 million in cash and will agree to wear a monitoring device. His travel will be restricted and he will surrender his passport, The New York Times reported.

- Bail package -

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office and police have been investigating Weinstein for months, coming under growing pressure from the Time's Up movement and Hollywood actresses to bring the disgraced producer to justice.

Lucia Evans, who said Weinstein forced her into oral sex in 2004, is thought to be at least one of the women whose cases triggered charges.

New York police have previously confirmed an active Weinstein investigation regarding Evans, who was an aspiring actress at the time, and a 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.

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

More than 100 women have since accused Weinstein of crimes ranging from sexual harassment to assault and rape going back 40 years.

Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are among 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. "I have a visceral need for him to have handcuffs on."

- 'Stop, don't' -

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 double Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.

Evans, now a marketing consultant, told The New Yorker that Weinstein approached her in a club in 2004 and that an assistant subsequently set up a daytime meeting at the Miramax office in Tribeca.

"He forced me to perform oral sex on him," she said. "I said, over and over, 'I don't want to do this, stop, don't,'" she added.

Weinstein denies any non-consensual sex and has reportedly been in treatment for sex addiction. His fashion designer wife, Georgina Chapman, has left him.

But for all the media hoopla Friday, 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 hard to prosecute and often lack substantive forensic evidence.

Weinstein's lawyer Ben Brafman is one of America's most celebrated criminal defense attorneys.

His past clients include former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who ultimately escaped criminal prosecution for alleged sexual assault in 2011.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, whose case against Strauss-Kahn fell apart, has been heavily criticized for failing to bring a criminal case against Weinstein for allegedly groping and harassing Italian model Ambra Battilana.




AFP

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