May 25, 2018 / 11:31 AM / 3 months ago

Film mogul Weinstein appears handcuffed in court to face rape charges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Movie 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 charges, his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters outside the Manhattan courthouse.

Prosecutors charged him with two counts of rape and one count of a criminal sexual act following a months-long investigation with the New York Police Department. They 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 has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 70 women, with some of the allegations dating back decades. He has denied ever having nonconsensual sex.

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 sexual 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 on Friday 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 with his mouth ajar while prosecutors described a bail agreement.

Judge Kevin McGrath ordered Weinstein released on $1 million cash bail and the case was adjourned to July 30. Weinstein surrendered his U.S. 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 a.m. EDT (1125 GMT). He carried thick books under his right arm, including biographies of Broadway musical duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and Elia Kazan, the director of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and other classic Hollywood films.

About 90 minutes later, Weinstein was led by officers into court in handcuffs, grimacing, with his head bowed and his books nowhere in sight.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Brafman signaled he would defend Weinstein by undermining the credibility of his client’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.”

SURREAL

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” program. “This is a big strike into the heart of abuse of power.”

After the accusations became public, entertainment industry heavyweights distanced themselves from Weinstein. The Weinstein Co’s board fired him, and the company filed for bankruptcy in March.

In 2017, Weinstein was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He had racked up Oscars for a string of films that helped define independent cinema in the 1990s, including “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Film producer Harvey Weinstein leaves criminal court following his arraignment in Manhattan in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Weinstein was a fixture of elite Manhattan and Los Angeles society 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 and Los Angeles prosecutors have said they are reviewing 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.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. had been under pressure over his 2015 decision not to pursue a complaint by model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who said Weinstein had groped her without her consent.

Vance made the decision even though he had a covert police recording of Weinstein telling Gutierrez he would not do it again. The district attorney said his decision was based on the merits of the case.

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter ordering the state attorney general to investigate how Vance and the NYPD handled sexual assault allegations, including the 2015 accusations against Weinstein.

The New York charges mark the second high-profile prosecution of a once-powerful show business personality in the #MeToo era.

A month ago, Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a onetime friend, one of dozens of women who have accused the comedian and former TV star of sexual misconduct.

Cosby’s conviction followed a mistrial last year on the same charges. In the retrial, the judge allowed five other accusers to tell similar stories of alleged abuse at his hands.

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It was unclear whether New York prosecutors would seek to have other Weinstein accusers testify against him.

Other actresses who have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct include Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek.

Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien, Peter Szekely, Jonathan Allen and Nathan Layne in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis

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