On eve of Manhattan sex assault trial, Harvey Weinstein charged with 2013 attacks on women in Los Angeles
Just hours after he entered a Manhattan courtroom where he will stand trial for sexual assault, Harvey Weinstein was charged with four more counts of rape and sexual battery in Los Angeles, deepening the legal peril faced by the fallen Hollywood mogul who is often seen as the archvillain of the #MeToo movement.
The new charges stem from accusations brought by two women who say Weinstein attacked them in hotels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in 2013, Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said during a downtown news conference Monday.
For the record:
7:31 PM, Jan. 06, 2020An earlier version of this article described Dmitriy Shakhnevich as a former prosecutor. He was not a prosecutor.
Court documents show the incidents described in Southern California resemble dozens of other accusations made against Weinstein across the globe in recent years. Both women said the Miramax co-founder assaulted them or exposed himself inside a hotel room after an industry event or business meeting, according to filings made public Monday.
“We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit crimes against them,” Lacey said in a statement. “I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them.”
Weinstein has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. His defense attorneys in New York and Los Angeles declined comment Monday.
Lacey said she did “not want to interfere” with the case in New York, suggesting the trial there would proceed first. A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Weinstein was charged in Los Angeles County with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint, prosecutors said in a statement.
Neither of the accusers has been identified publicly, though one of the women is a former model and actress who described Weinstein’s alleged assault to The Times in 2017, according to her attorney, David Ring.
She said the first assault took place at the Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel in February 2013, after she met Weinstein briefly at the Los Angeles Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest. Weinstein “became very aggressive and demanding” while asking her to disrobe, the woman previously told The Times.
The woman said that she showed Weinstein pictures of her children and begged him to stop.
“He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do,” she said.
In a motion asking a judge to set Weinstein’s bail in Los Angeles at $5 million, prosecutors said the woman did not immediately report the assault to police because Weinstein threatened to kill her after the alleged rape. She did report the alleged attack to three close confidantes in 2013, however, including her priest, law enforcement sources previously told The Times.
Since the allegation from the Italian model surfaced, Weinstein’s attorneys have vigorously denied that he was at the hotel that night. He has also denied ever being alone with the accuser.
Just days later, the second accuser said she had a business meeting with Weinstein and another woman at a hotel in West Los Angeles when the mogul convinced them to visit his hotel suite, according to the bail motion. Once upstairs, the victim “unwittingly” followed Weinstein into a bathroom and the other woman closed the door, trapping her inside, court records show.
At that point, Weinstein allegedly disrobed and showered briefly before undressing her, according to the motion. Prosecutors accused Weinstein of groping the woman while masturbating, court records show.
In all, Lacey said, the district attorney’s office reviewed eight allegations against Weinstein. Prosecutors declined to bring charges in three cases because the statute of limitations had expired.
Those cases involved an alleged rape in Hollywood in the 1970s, an incident where Weinstein was accused of exposing himself to a producer during a meeting in Beverly Hills in 2011 and an allegation of sexual battery on Christmas Eve in 2015, court records show.
Three other cases remain under review for possible charges, Lacey said.
The L.A. County charges come as Weinstein prepares to face trial in Manhattan on five counts of sexual assault. Jury selection was expected to begin in New York Tuesday.
In New York, Weinstein is charged with first-degree rape, two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree rape. Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant for Weinstein’s company, has accused him of assaulting her in 2006. A second unidentified woman also told police Weinstein attacked her in New York in 2013.
A number of other women who have accused Weinstein of assaulting them in hotel rooms, including actress Annabella Sciorra and the model who accused the mogul of rape at Mr. C’s Beverly Hills hotel in 2013, are expected to testify at his New York trial.
If Weinstein faces trial in Los Angeles, Lacey said she also planned to call women to testify whose accusations didn’t result in charges, under California laws that allow witnesses to testify to a defendant’s “prior bad acts.”
Lacey has often faced criticism for her perceived reticence to prosecute powerful individuals, most notably in the case of Democratic donor Ed Buck. Asked why it took years to charge Weinstein since the accusers came forward in 2017, Lacey said prosecutors needed time to win both victims’ complete trust.
“It was very challenging to get those victims to open up and tell us what they needed to tell us,” she said. “For some, it was very embarrassing, terrifying ... the bottom line is we had been working on this case quite diligently in the last couple of years and turns out that coincidentally our case was ready to go this year and this was the first business day we could get everyone together that we needed in order to do this.”
Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a criminal defense attorney who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, called Lacey’s decision to file the day before jury selection began in Manhattan “very strange and coincidental.”
The fact that one of the accusers in the Los Angeles case will first testify in New York also puts prosecutors in Los Angeles at a disadvantage, he said, since Weinstein’s defense team will have time to pick apart her testimony between trials.
“There are going to be cross-examinations lasting hours, if not days, of these witnesses, so good lawyers, expensive lawyers, are going to go through those transcripts with fine-tooth combs,” Shakhnevich said. “You could tell the same story to numerous parties, and it could be the truth, and I promise you I’ll find places where it looks like you’re not telling the same story twice.”
Others suggested Lacey timed the announcement for political gain. As she seeks her third term as district attorney, Lacey is facing stiff challenges from former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon and former public defender Rachel Rossi in a March 2020 primary.
“Jackie Lacey’s announcement today is nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt designed to spark interest in her floundering reelection campaign,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Ceballos, who launched a failed bid to oust Lacey last year. “If she genuinely believed in the case against Mr. Weinstein, she should have filed charges months ago.”
Ceballos dropped out of the primary last year and endorsed Gascon. He is not directly involved in the prosecution of the Weinstein case.
The charges against Weinstein are the first to stem from a task force formed by Lacey in 2017 to review sexual abuse allegations against high-profile entertainment figures. The task force has reviewed 40 cases against alleged predators in the last two years, but declined to prosecute in almost every instance because “the alleged crimes were too old to prosecute, or there was insufficient credible evidence to file,” Lacey said.
Weinstein has become inextricably linked to the #MeToo movement since 2017, when more than 80 women began making sexual battery and assault accusations against him.
A group of 25 of those accusers whose claims did not result in criminal charges — now calling themselves the “Silence Breakers” — hailed Monday’s developments as “a clear indication that the risks we took and the consequences we subsequently faced were not in vain.”
“More than 80 of us came forward with our stories — at tremendous risks to our personal and professional lives — to make it clear that the kind of sexual assault, bullying and abuses of power Harvey Weinstein perpetuated for years cannot and will not be tolerated,” the group, which includes actresses Rosanna Arquette, Rose McGowan and Mira Sorvino, said in a statement.
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