Harvey Weinstein is the target of a new lawsuit by three women, including a technology sales executive who accuses the producer of sexual assault and rape and says his lawyer’s firm duped her.
The suit makes new allegations against the producer, who this week was criminally indicted by a New York grand jury alleging rape in the first degree and third degree and criminal sexual assault on two women. Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman has insisted that Weinstein never had nonconsensual sex with any of those making allegations and that a trial will clear the disgraced mogul’s name.
Friday’s civil suit is the second potential class-action suit against Weinstein and his various companies and former employers, including Disney. It is the first to question the role of Brafman’s law firm, accusing the firm of deceiving a woman into believing it would represent her against Weinstein and enticing her to hand over evidence.
In the lawsuit, tech executive Melissa Thompson says that she was in a meeting with Weinstein in his New York office in September 2011 pitching her company’s new video platform and that during the pitch, the producer began to harass and touch her. Weinstein began caressing her leg and moving his hands under her dress and she tried to ignore it, according to the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status.
The suit claims that during the pitch, Thompson’s computer video camera captured parts of Weinstein’s behavior.
Thompson went to a follow-up meeting with Weinstein at a restaurant at the Tribeca Grand Hotel that same day, and the meeting quickly moved to a hotel room, the suit says. It became clear Weinstein wanted more than a business deal, the suit says, and Thompson went to the bathroom to escape. When she returned, the producer was naked from the waist down and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him, the suit alleges. At that point, it alleges, “Weinstein grabbed her, using brute force to push her flat on her stomach as he pulled up her dress” as she fought.
“Weinstein held her down and raped her,” the suit says.
The suit also alleges that Brafman’s law firm duped Thompson into thinking the firm would represent her against Weinstein. Brafman is now one of Weinstein’s criminal defense attorneys.
The suit alleges that after news broke in October 2017 in the New York Times of Weinstein’s behavior, she contacted an attorney with Brafman’s firm, Alex Spiro, who she believed would represent her and that Brafman’s firm enticed her to turn over audio and video evidence of Weinstein’s conduct. Later, the suit says, Thompson learned Brafman was representing Weinstein.
“Brafman & Associates led me to believe that they were going to help the group of women assaulted by him [Weinstein] — when, in fact, they were Weinstein’s lead criminal defense attorneys,” Thompson said in a statement.
Brafman said the allegation was nonsense. “This firm has never represented Melissa Thompson and I personally never met with her or any of the other women named in the lawsuit,” he said Friday in a statement.
Brafman said Spiro had left the firm in September — before Thompson says she contacted the attorney — and that Spiro had never met or represented Weinstein.
“To the extent he spoke with or met with any of these women, he did so on his own time after he had left this firm,” Brafman said.
Spiro denied that he told Thompson he was still working at Brafman’s firm and pushed back against her allegations. “I never have and I never would represent Harvey Weinstein, and in fact, I represent one of the key victims, but Ms. Thompson has never been a client,” he said.
Spiro said in an email Friday that he referred Thompson to another attorney and that he has never communicated with Brafman about Weinstein.
Elizabeth Fegan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Spiro communicated with Thompson via a Brafman & Associates email address.
The two other plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that Weinstein attacked them too.
Caitlin Dulany says in the suit that she met Weinstein in 1996 in New York, outside the office of Miramax, a production company co-founded by Weinstein. She alleges in the lawsuit that he first tried to get her into bed at a New York studio apartment and that later, after inviting her to a star-studded Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation benefit, he trapped her in a Hotel de Cap suite at the Cannes Film Festival in France and forcibly performed oral sex on her.
Larissa Gomes, a dancer and actress, alleges in the suit that in 2000, Weinstein imprisoned her in a penthouse hotel room in Toronto, grabbed her and tried to kiss her on the lips.
Weinstein is free on $1 million bail pending arraignment next week. More than 80 women have accused him of committing acts, over four decades, that include unwanted touching and rape. He is the subject of police investigations in Los Angeles, New York and London. He is also the subject of a federal investigation by prosecutors in New York.