Harvey Weinstein today pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault charges in a New York courtroom, the next step in a high-stakes legal battle that the #MeToo movement hopes will end with the disgraced Hollywood mogul behind bars.
The 66-year-old producer, whose career imploded in a blaze of accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse from dozens of women that triggered a global reckoning about harassment in the workplace, could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Weinstein, who appeared in court in a dark blazer, jeans and a tie, uttered only a few words at the brief arraignment hearing in Manhattan. He has steadfastly denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex.
“Not guilty,” he said in a barely audible voice when asked for his plea on the three counts he is facing. He also replied “Yes” several times as the judge reiterated the conditions of his monitored release.
Weinstein, the onetime Tinseltown powerbroker whose films earned dozens of Oscars, was charged with rape and another sex crime in New York late last month, nearly eight months after the first public allegations against him surfaced.
The twice-married father of five has been indicted for allegedly forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him in 2004, and for allegedly raping another at a Manhattan hotel in 2013.
Benjamin Brafman, one of America’s most celebrated criminal defense attorneys, did most of the talking for the mogul at his hearing today.
“Mr Weinstein is presumed innocent… however reprehensible the crime may be, it is also reprehensible to falsely accuse someone of rape,” Brafman said. “We intend to fight this in the courtroom.” Brafman said that the rape complaint came from a woman who had a 10-year affair with Weinstein, but the information was not confirmed.
The accusation of forced oral sex comes from Lucia Evans, a marketing consultant who, in 2004, was an aspiring actress. She told her story in October to a daily.
Evans said that Weinstein spoke to her of a possible role as a model on television reality show ‘Project Runway’. before forcing her into oral sex.
Since October, nearly 100 women have said they were harassed or sexually abused by Weinstein over a period of more than two decades.
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, say they were raped.
Weinstein has reportedly spent months in treatment for sex addiction. His fashion designer wife, Georgina Chapman, has left him.
Weinstein remains free, having posted USD 1 million bail. He is wearing a GPS monitoring device, and his travel is restricted to the states of New York and Connecticut.
Weinstein already faces a slew of civil lawsuits, is reportedly under federal investigation, and his former studio has filed for bankruptcy.
He is also under criminal investigation in London and Los Angeles, but the criminal charges in New York were the first to be lodged.
Last week, three actresses filed a new lawsuit against Weinstein alleging sexual assault. They urged other victims to come forward and join the complaint. Melissa Thompson, one of the women filing the class action lawsuit, said she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein during a 2011 meeting to discuss a new marketing tool.
Harvey Weinstein indicted for rape and criminal sexual act