Officials: Weinstein to surrender in sexual misconduct probe
NEW YORK (AP) — Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to authorities Friday to face charges involving at least one of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.
It would be the first criminal case against Weinstein to come out of the barrage of sexual abuse allegations from scores of women that destroyed his career and set off a national reckoning that brought down other powerful men in what has become known as the #MeToo movement.
The two officials said the criminal case involves allegations by then-aspiring actress Lucia Evans, who told a magazine that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex. She was among the first women to speak out about the 66-year-old film producer. One official said it’s likely the case also will include at least one other victim who has not come forward publicly.
The officials spoke Thursday to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.
A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks, and the precise charges against Weinstein weren’t immediately known. Weinstein’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment, though Weinstein has said repeatedly through his lawyers that he did not have nonconsensual sex with anyone.
Evans told The New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.
“I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’ ” she told the magazine. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.”
Evans, who is now a marketing consultant, didn’t report the incident to police at the time, telling The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow that she blamed herself for not fighting back.
“It was always my fault for not stopping him,” she said.
Brafman said in court paperwork filed this month in a bankruptcy proceeding that the allegations that Weinstein forced himself on women were “entirely without merit.”
“I am trying my very best to persuade both the federal and state prosecutors that he should not be arrested and or indicted, because he did not knowingly violate the law,” Brafman wrote.
Brafman said in the same court filing that he had been informed that Weinstein was a “principal target” of an investigation being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has come under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case. Some women’s groups, including the Hollywood activist group Time’s Up, accused the Democrat of being too deferential to Weinstein and too dismissive of his accusers.
In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the extraordinary step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model.
Vance had insisted any decision would be based on the strength of the evidence, not on political considerations. His office declined comment Thursday.
More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing. Several actresses and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, including 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 the 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.
New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010.
McGowan said she was “in shock” at the news that Weinstein would face charges.
“I still have very guarded hopes. The justice system has been something very elusive. And I hope in this case it works. Because it’s all true. None of this was consensual.” she said. “I hope this gives hope to victims and survivors everywhere, that we are one step closer to justice. Because one win is a win for all of us. It shows that it can be done.”
The statute of limitations for rape in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.
Several filed a federal lawsuit claiming his efforts to prey on women and cover up complaints amounted to a criminal enterprise.
Authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there go back to the 1980s.
Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein started his now-bankrupt company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in ’90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction,” and “Shakespeare in Love.” The Weinstein Co. found success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.”
Even in a Hollywood where some film producers have long enjoyed outsized power, Weinstein stood out as someone who could make or destroy careers — a factor that kept many of his accusers, and people aware of his problematic conduct with women, from speaking out.
The public allegations against Weinstein helped prompt a broad public reckoning 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 Sen. Al Franken, chef Mario Batali, casino magnate Steve Wynn and, most recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.