A grand jury in New York voted Wednesday to indict disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein on charges of rape, stemming from evidence that Weinstein forced a woman to perform oral sex on him in his office, and that he raped a second woman at a hotel, according to the Manhattan district attorney. The indictment has been expected by the public since dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein surfaced last year, and several months of investigative work by prosecutors and police concluded with the arrest and indictment of Weinstein this week.
“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement.
Mr. Weinstein surrendered to police Friday and was charged with first-degree rape and other offenses. District attorney Vance Jr. was required to obtain a grand jury indictment on these charges within six months of an arrest, but prosecutors moved rapidly after Weinstein declared he would refuse to testify in his own defense before a grand jury.
The criminal indictment charges Weinstein with first-degree and third-degree rape, and a first-degree criminal sexual act. The highest charges carry a potential of five to 25 years behind bars, if convicted. Weinstein was released Friday after surrendering his passport and posting $1 million bail.
The superstar producer, known for making award-winning films, has become an international symbol of sexual misconduct and the catalyst for the global #MeToo movement. Lucia Evans, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex acts during what she believed was a casting opportunity at Weinstein’s TriBeCa office in 2004, co-operated with the district attorney’s office in the investigation. Her testimony resulted in the charge of first-degree criminal sexual acts against Weinstein.
The identity of the rape victim in the charges against Weinstein is not known at this time, but prosecutors said she was attached by Weinstein on March 18, 2013. “This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” the lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi, said at Mr. Weinstein’s arraignment. Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said both encounter were consensual, arguing Evans did not report the attack for over a decade, and that the second woman continued a romantic relationship with Weinstein for years after the alleged attack.
The district attorney said attempts by Weinstein’s legal team to discredit the legitimacy of the accusers fit his past behavior of manipulation to discredit women’s complaints and keep them silent. “The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable,” Vance said in the statement. Brafman said Weinstein would plead not guilty and “vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies.”
“If this case actually proceeds to trial, we expect Mr. Weinstein to be acquitted,” he said.
Weinstein notified prosecutors that he was willing to provide his narrative to a grand jury, but his legal team later notified prosecutors they had insufficient time to prepare testimony after learning more details about his accusers on Friday. Brafman said the district attorney denied requests to postpone convening a grand jury to accommodate Weinstein’s legal team.
“Regardless of how compelling Mr. Weinstein’s personal testimony might be, an indictment was inevitable due to the unfair political pressure being placed on Cy Vance to secure a conviction of Mr. Weinstein.” Brafman told reporters.
District attorney Vance has faced previous criticism from law enforcement and women’s groups for his choice not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015, when a model accused him of sexual battery during an interview. Vance has defended his decision, saying prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.