Harvey Weinstein‘s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, defended his client on Friday as the disgraced Hollywood movie producer faces charges of raping and sexually assaulting two women.
Over the last several months, Weinstein has been accused by nearly 100 women of sexual impropriety; so far, he has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.
Weinstein, 66, appeared wan and grey as he turned himself in to New York City police early Friday morning. He was arraigned in the first criminal prosecution to result from the multitude of allegations against him, and was charged with first- and third-degree rape and a criminal sex act, as well as lower-level sex abuse and sexual misconduct charges.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the criminal sex act charge stems from a 2004 encounter between Weinstein and Lucia Evans, a then-aspiring actress who has said the Hollywood mogul forced her to perform oral sex on him in his office. She was among the first women to speak out about the producer.
The rape charge relates to a woman who was not identified. A court complaint says Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.
“This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” Manhattan assistant attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court. Weinstein raised his eyebrows as he heard it.
A judge agreed to release Weinstein on $1-million bail (after setting a staggering $10-million bond), with constant electronic monitoring and a ban on travelling beyond New York and Connecticut. He must also surrender his passport.
Brafman said he wasn’t there “to try the case” at this point.
“My job is not to defend behaviour,” he said when grilled by journalists outside the Manhattan Criminal Court. “My job is to defend something that is criminal behaviour. Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. To the extent that there’s bad behaviour in that industry, that is not what this is about. Bad behaviour is not on trial in this case.”
Brafman also said Weinstein will enter a plea of not guilty and he’ll be moving to dismiss the charges.
“Mr. Weinstein has always maintained that he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour with anyone,” he said. “Nothing about today’s proceedings changes Mr. Weinstein’s position. He has entered a plea of not guilty and fully expects to be exonerated. We intend to move very quickly to dismiss these charges. We believe that they are constitutionally flawed. We believe that they are not factually supported by the evidence, and we believe that at the end of the process Mr. Weinstein will be exonerated.”
“You sorry, Harvey?” came a shout from a throng of media as the once-powerful movie mogul walked into the courthouse in handcuffs, his head bowed. Asked “What can you say?” he mildly shook his head and softly said “No.”
Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance had been under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case against Weinstein. 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.
“Today’s charges reflect significant progress in this active, ongoing investigation,” said Vance in a statement. “I thank the brave survivors who have come forward, and my office’s prosecutors who have worked tirelessly on this investigation. I would also like to thank Commissioner James O’Neill and our dedicated partners at the NYPD. We urge additional survivors and others with relevant information to call our sex crimes hotline at 212-335-9373.”
A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks, and more charges are expected. At least four other women are scheduled to testify. The producer is also under investigation in London and Los Angeles, and he is facing a lawsuit in Toronto.
Weinstein’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 30.
— With files from The Associated Press