Officials: Weinstein to surrender in sexual misconduct probe




 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to authorities Friday to face charges involving at least one of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

It would be the first criminal case against Weinstein to come out of the barrage of sexual abuse allegations from scores of women that destroyed his career and set off a national reckoning that brought down other powerful men in what has become known as the #MeToo movement.

The two officials said the criminal case involves allegations by then-aspiring actress Lucia Evans, who told a magazine that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex. She was among the first women to speak out about the film producer.

The officials spoke Thursday to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the investigation.

A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks, and the precise charges against Weinstein weren't immediately clear. Weinstein's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment, though Weinstein has said repeatedly through his lawyers that he did not have nonconsensual sex with anyone.

Evans told The New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.

"I said, over and over, 'I don't want to do this, stop, don't,' " she told the magazine. "I tried to get away, but maybe I didn't try hard enough. I didn't want to kick him or fight him."

Evans, who is now a marketing consultant, didn't report the incident to police at the time, telling The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow that she blamed herself for not fighting back.

"It was always my fault for not stopping him," she said.

Brafman said in court paperwork filed this month in a bankruptcy proceeding that the allegations that Weinstein forced himself on women were "entirely without merit."

"I am trying my very best to persuade both the federal and state prosecutors that he should not be arrested and or indicted, because he did not knowingly violate the law," Brafman wrote.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office, which also declined comment, has come under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case. Some women's groups, including the Hollywood activist group Time's Up, accused the Democrat of being too deferential to Weinstein and too dismissive of his accusers.

In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the extraordinary step of ordering the state's attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model.

Vance had insisted any decision would be based on the strength of the evidence, not on political considerations.

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing. Several actresses and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, including film actress Rose McGowan, who said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, "Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who said he raped her in her New York apartment in 1992, and the Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe, who said he attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008. Another aspiring actress, Mimi Haleyi, said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his New York apartment in 2006.

New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, "Boardwalk Empire" actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010.

It's not clear whether Weinstein, 66, will face additional charges involving other women. The statute of limitations for rape in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.

Several filed a federal lawsuit claiming his efforts to prey on women and cover up complaints amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there go back to the 1980s.

Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein started his now-bankrupt company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in '90s indie film with hits like "Pulp Fiction," and "Shakespeare in Love." The Weinstein Co. found success with Oscar winners "The Artist" and "The King's Speech."

Even in a Hollywood where some film producers have long enjoyed outsized power, Weinstein stood out as someone who could make or destroy careers - a factor that kept many of his accusers, and people aware of his problematic conduct with women, from speaking out.

The public allegations against Weinstein helped prompt a broad public reckoning about sexual misconduct.

Major figures in media and politics have lost their jobs or had their reputations tarnished by allegations that they subjected women to unwanted advances or outright assaults. They include TV hosts Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, comedian Louis C.K, Democratic Sen. Al Franken, chef Mario Batali, casino magnate Steve Wynn and, most recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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The prosecution has admitted to a new embarrassing error in the Harvey Weinstein case, saying a police detective told one of the disgraced Hollywood producer's accusers to delete from her phone anything she wanted to keep private. In a letter to Weinstein's attorney dated Tuesday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon acknowledged that the lead detective had made the recommendation to one of two women accusing Weinstein in the case, in which he faces charges of rape and a forced oral sex act. "This new development even further undermines the integrity of an already deeply flawed indictment of Mr Weinstein," his lawyer Ben Brafman was quoted by a spokeswoman as saying.

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