More than 80 women have come forward to report sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein since October of last year. He has been fired from his company, kicked out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and pushed out of the Directors Guild of America. But Weinstein had never faced any criminal charges in connection with the many allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him. Until now.
On Wednesday, May 30, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Weinstein on charges of first- and third-degree rape in one case and a first-degree sex act in a second case. He is accused by one woman of raping her and another of forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
Weinstein surrendered to authorities in New York days earlier, and was arraigned shortly thereafter. Bond was set at $10 million or $1 million cash, which he paid with cashier’s check. Weinstein also was required to relinquish his passport and wear a GPS monitoring system. He is only permitted to travel between New York and Connecticut.
In a press conference Friday, Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, reiterated Weinstein’s contention that he did not engage in nonconsensual sexual activities and that Weinstein will enter a plea of not guilty.
Weinstein’s arrest came two days after reports that federal prosecutors had begun a sex crimes investigation into Weinstein and that a state grand jury convened to hear evidence in sexual assault allegations against the former Hollywood mogul.
The NYPD does not release the names of sex crime victims. However, Lucia Evans, now a marketing consultant, confirmed to the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow that she is pressing charges against Weinstein. Evans alleges that in 2004, when she was an aspiring actress, Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at the Miramax office in Tribeca — just blocks from the NYPD precinct where Weinstein turned himself in on Friday.
Actress Paz de la Huerta told Vanity Fair that Weinstein raped her in 2010 at a Manhattan hotel, but she told Farrow that her allegations are not part of the charges expected to be filed against Weinstein, though she will testify if asked.
Much speculation in the case has centered on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who declined to prosecute Weinstein in connection with a 2015 sexual assault allegation — and who later received a campaign donation from Weinstein’s lawyer. Vance will be faced with the decision of whether to prosecute, under public pressure from critics of his previous decision, and from the #MeToo movement more generally.
In a statement Wednesday after the indictment, Vance said, “This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged.”
But arrest and indictment are only the beginning of a long legal process. Weinstein’s connection to Vance could play a role in the future of this case this time as well — the producer has hired another lawyer who was a donor to Vance’s campaign, and who represented two high-profile rape defendants whom Vance declined to prosecute. Whether Weinstein will get a fair trial, or a trial at all, remains to be seen. But if he does, it will be momentous, as the first in a wave of powerful men accused last year finally faces his day in court.
Harvey Weinstein and his lawyers have a history with the Manhattan DA’s office
This isn’t the first time Weinstein has been investigated by the NYPD. In 2015, according to Farrow, model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez reported to police that Weinstein had grabbed her breasts and tried to reach up her skirt during a meeting at his Tribeca office. Despite a recording in which Weinstein appeared to admit to the incident — saying, “I won’t do it again” — Vance’s office decided not to press charges.
A few months after that decision, Weinstein’s lawyer David Boies donated $10,000 to Vance’s reelection campaign, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews notes. Representatives for Boies and Vance have denied any connection between the donation and the decision not to prosecute, and said that Boies did not represent Weinstein in the Gutierrez case. However, Weinstein’s defense team during the investigation included two other Vance donors, Linda Fairstein and Elkan Abramowitz, who was also Vance’s former law partner, according to the New York Times.
Vance was reelected in November after running unopposed, and in January, he announced that he would no longer accept donations from lawyers with pending cases before his office. Vance has also returned some donations, but as of October, he had not provided a breakdown of where the donations originated, according to the Times.
The issue of donations matters not just for the previous Weinstein case but for the current one. Weinstein has hired high-powered defense attorney Ben Brafman to represent him this time around. Brafman’s firm has donated about $4,600 to Vance in the past, the Times reports. And Vance has declined to prosecute two high-profile Brafman clients accused of rape in the past: lawyer Sanford A. Rubenstein in 2015 and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011.
Now, of course, critics are watching Vance for any sign of favoritism toward Weinstein. And the rise of the #MeToo movement means public opinion around the case may look different than it did for, say, Strauss-Kahn.
We don’t yet know how all these conflicting forces will come into play at a trial, if the case goes that route. What we do know is that the man whose name has become inextricably linked with #MeToo has been arrested and will likely soon be charged. Whatever happens next, the whole country will be watching.