Handcuffed Weinstein faces rape charge in #MeToo reckoning

NEW YORK — It was the moment the #MeToo movement had been waiting for: Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs.

His face pulled in a strained smile and his hands locked behind his back, the once-powerful Hollywood figure emerged from a police station Friday facing rape and criminal sex act charges, a searing reckoning for the man who became a symbol of a worldwide outcry over sexual misconduct.

“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 later, in words that brought raised eyebrows from the otherwise stony-faced Weinstein.

The charges stem from encounters with two of the dozens of women — some famous, some not — who have accused him of sexual misdeeds. The rape charge involves a woman who has not come forward publicly; the other is a onetime aspiring actress who was among his first accusers.

Weinstein has consistently denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex.

His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Friday that he would fight to get the charges dismissed.

And he began to take aim at the accusations and accusers, noting that the alleged attacks weren’t reported to police when they happened and suggesting potential jurors wouldn’t believe the women.

“Assuming,” he added, “we get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case.”

Asked about the raft of other allegations against Weinstein, Brafman said the case was a question of crime, not bad behaviour.

“Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood,” the attorney said.

Weinstein was released on $1 million bail, with constant electronic monitoring and a ban on travelling beyond New York and Connecticut.

As he surrendered, the 66-year-old Weinstein found himself surrounded by lights and cameras in a spectacle he couldn’t control.

“You sorry, Harvey?” came a shout from a throng of media as the once powerful movie mogul was led into a lower Manhattan courthouse.

Asked “what can you say?” Weinstein mildly shook his head and softly said “no.”

Earlier, he lumbered into a police station carrying books that harkened to his show-business roots: one on the Broadway songwriting team of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and another about famed film director Elia Kazan.

During a half-hour in a cell, officials said, he sat on the floor and flipped through the Kazan biography. Later, in a courthouse booking area, he complained he felt faint and his handcuffs were too tight. Officers used three, linked sets to put his hands behind his back — a common procedure for heavyset prisoners. Other suspects who recognized him yelled out, “Yo, Harvey!”

The top charges against him carry the potential for up to 25 years in prison.

He’s accused of confining a woman in a Manhattan hotel room and raping her in 2013, according to a court complaint.

The criminal sex act charge stems from a 2004 encounter between Weinstein and Lucia Evans, a then-aspiring actress who told The New Yorker magazine he forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting in his office.

“We are relieved and grateful that justice is coming, but we also mourn the cases where it didn’t,” her lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing, and authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Brafman also has said that Weinstein was a “principal target” of an investigation being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

New York City police have also been investigating allegations by “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police last fall that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010.

Other women who have publicly accused Weinstein of criminal sexual assaults include 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 Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe, who said he attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008.

Until the scandal, Weinstein was among the most influential forces in American film. Companies he co-founded, Miramax and the Weinstein Co., were behind such hits as “Pulp Fiction,” ”Shakespeare in Love” and “The King’s Speech.”

But there were rumours in Hollywood for years about Weinstein’s pursuit of young actresses. And in 2015, an Italian model went to New York City police and accused him of groping her during a meeting.

Police set up a sting in which the woman recorded herself confronting Weinstein. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. decided not to bring charges, citing a lack of evidence.

Vance — a Democrat who faced public pressure from women’s groups to prosecute Weinstein this time — said Friday’s charges “reflect significant progress in this active, ongoing investigation.”

The public allegations against Weinstein helped prompt a broad public furor 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 U.S. Sen. Al Franken, chef Mario Batali, casino magnate Steve Wynn and, most recently, Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

But on Friday, it was Weinstein in the spotlight.

“We got you, Harvey Weinstein,” McGowan tweeted. “We got you.”

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