NEW YORK (TNS) — In a milestone for the #MeToo movement, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to New York authorities Friday morning, and prosecutors filed criminal charges against him, including rape.
Weinstein was charged with rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree and committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree for alleged forcible sexual acts against two women in 2013 and 2004, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement. Authorities have withheld the alleged victim's names, although one is believed to be a woman who went public with allegations against Weinstein in a magazine article last year.
On Friday morning, Weinstein was led into a courtroom with his hands cuffed behind his back. He did not speak during the brief appearance.
The judge set his bail at $10 million and restricted his movements to New York and Connecticut. Weinstein consented to 24-hour-a-day GPS monitoring and a temporary restraining order requested by one alleged victim.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said in court that Weinstein "used his position and power" to sexually exploit his victims. She said he was being prosecuted for "two separate forcible sexual assaults against two separate women."
Speaking to reporters after the court appearance, Weinstein's attorney, Benjamin Braffman, said the former producer will enter a plea of not guilty and continues to "vehemently deny" any criminal acts. Weinstein, he said, maintains that any sexual acts with the women were consensual and that the charges are "constitutionally flawed."
Braffman said that if the women are cross-examined before a jury, "the charges will not be believed by 12 people, assuming we will get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case."
"Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood," Braffman said. "And to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about. Bad behavior is not on trial in this case. It's only if you intentionally committed a criminal act, and Mr. Weinstein vigorously denies that."
The charges are the first to result from months of investigations in New York, California and London.
Before his arrival Friday morning, at least 100 reporters and photographers waited outside the New York Police Department's 1st Precinct station in downtown Manhattan. Police set up barricades along the intersection of Varick and Beach streets, drawing bemused stares of passing motorists, who repeatedly rolled down their windows to ask what was happening.
Police blocked off traffic around 7:25 a.m., and Weinstein exited a truck that pulled up near the precinct headquarters entrance. He was sporting a light blue sweater under a dark blazer and carrying two books _ "Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution" by Todd S. Purdum and "Elia Kazan" by Richard Schickel, a biography of the legendary director and former member of the Communist Party who named names of other party members during a wave of U.S. anti-communist hysteria.
Weinstein ignored a din of shouted questions from reporters.
Sources with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity said one of the women involved in the case is a once-aspiring actress who has alleged that Weinstein assaulted her during a meeting at his Miramax office in 2004. Lucia Evans told The New Yorker magazine last year that Weinstein said during a meeting that she'd "be great in 'Project Runway'" before allegedly forcing her to perform oral sex.
The second alleged victim's identity has not been reported.
According to the New Yorker story, Evans said she met with Weinstein in one of his offices when she was a student at Middlebury College.
"He immediately was simultaneously flattering me and demeaning me and making me feel bad about myself," she told the magazine. Weinstein told her that she'd be perfect for "Project Runway" — the show, which Weinstein helped produce, premiered later in 2004 — but that she needed to lose weight. She also said he told her about two scripts, a horror movie and a teen love story.
"At that point, after that, is when he assaulted me," Evans said.
She said she objected, but that Weinstein exposed his penis and pulled her head down toward it.
"I said, over and over, 'I don't want to do this, stop, don't,'" Evans told The New Yorker. "I tried to get away, but maybe I didn't try hard enough. I didn't want to kick him or fight him." In the end, she said, "he's a big guy. He overpowered me." She added: "I just sort of gave up. That's the most horrible part of it, and that's why he's been able to do this for so long to so many women: People give up, and then they feel like it's their fault."
Weinstein has been accused by more than 80 women of misconduct that includes sexual harassment and rape. Police in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York and London have conducted investigations into more than 20 allegations.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey's team has been reviewing two investigations into Weinstein by Beverly Hills police, as well as three Los Angeles Police Department investigations — including an Italian actress' allegation of rape in 2013.
According to law enforcement sources, detectives believe that case is promising for prosecution because the woman told her story to three people, including a priest, relatively soon after the alleged attack. LAPD detectives also have evidence the woman was a guest at the Beverly Hills hotel where she claims Weinstein attacked her, the sources said. The case does have flaws, they added. Detectives found little physical evidence of an attack and have been unable to secure proof that Weinstein was at the hotel when the woman says the rape occurred.
Sources said the Manhattan district attorney's office has an ongoing grand jury that is examining other potential charges against Weinstein. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York also continues to investigate the producer.
On Monday, actress Rose McGowan, who has accused Weinstein of rape and reportedly settled a lawsuit against him years ago, tweeted: "We got you, Harvey Weinstein, we got you."
"I can say this: The man who pinned me down had handcuffs on today," McGowan said on NBC.
She said it was surreal "to see him do the Bill Cosby old-man perp walk on the way in" and that "to see him in cuffs on the way out ... that's a very good feeling."
Actress and director Asia Argento, who also has accused Weinstein of rape, tweeted that Weinstein on Friday "will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell."
She continued: "We, the women, finally have real hope for justice."