National News

Weinstein Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Assault Charges

Posted June 5, 2018 10:46 a.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2018 10:48 a.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein, appearing in court Tuesday in Manhattan, pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault charges lodged against him last month. It was Weinstein’s first time back in court since his May 25 arrest on charges that he sexually assaulted two women in New York.

Last week, a grand jury indicted Weinstein, 66, on those same charges — one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape and one count of first-degree criminal sexual act.

He was arraigned Tuesday before Justice James M. Burke in State Supreme Court. Weinstein’s not-guilty plea had been expected.

Through his lawyer, the disgraced movie producer has steadfastly denied he forced any of the dozens of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct to have sex with him and his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, has said the two sexual encounters described in the indictment handed up last week were also consensual.

Once one of the most powerful and admired producers in Hollywood, Weinstein has had a steep fall from grace in the last seven months since The New York Times and The New Yorker published exposes in which numerous women accused him of luring them to hotel rooms, ostensibly to talk business, then making unwanted sexual advances.

The stories, which won a Pulitzer Prize, became a catalyst for the #MeToo movement and prompted a cascade of revelations about other successful men who have abused their power to sexually harass women in the worlds of media, the arts, sports, haute cuisine and entertainment.

More than 80 women, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, have come forward with similar stories about Weinstein. Some accused him of using physical force to compel them to have sex. Others said he tried to barter parts in movies for sex or threatened to ruin their careers if they did not comply.

The accounts, however, had not led to a criminal prosecution, despite investigations by authorities in London, Los Angeles and New York. Two weeks ago, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., became the first prosecutor to determine he had enough evidence to arrest Weinstein in connection with two incidents.

The grand jury that handed up the indictment May 30 is still hearing evidence from witnesses and could add charges. Prosecutors are also digging into the books of Weinstein’s companies, searching for evidence of financial crimes.

Investigators continue to interview women who have said Weinstein forced them to have sex with him. On Monday, for instance, prosecutors met with Melissa Thompson, an entrepreneur who asserted in a lawsuit filed Friday that Weinstein overpowered her and raped her during what was supposed to be a sales pitch at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel in September 2011, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation.