Disgraced Hollywood powerbroker Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged Friday with rape and sex crimes on two women, nearly eight months after his career imploded in a blaze of assault accusations that triggered the global #MeToo movement.
The former mogul -- once the toast of Hollywood and whose films won scores of Oscars -- is expected to appear before a Manhattan court later on Friday morning, where he is expected to plead not guilty.
The New York police department announced in a brief statement he was "arrested, processed and charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women".
They mark the first criminal charges against the twice-married, shamed former titan, despite a slew of civil lawsuits and a reported federal investigation.
"The NYPD thanks these brave survivors for their courage to come forward and seek justice," the New York police department said in a statement.
The 66-year-old former studio boss walked into the downtown Manhattan police station shortly before 7:30am (11:30 GMT) wearing a white shirt, pale blue sweater and dark blazer before a mob of television cameras and photographers.
He stepped out of a black SUV, clutching several books -- what appeared to be the Rodgers and Hammerstein biography "Something Wonderful," a book on director Elia Kazan and a black Moleskine-type notebook -- and looking glum as he walked up the steps into the station.
Weinstein was understood to have had his mugshots and fingerprints taken at the station, close to his former Miramax office in Tribeca and the Manhattan townhouse he once shared with his estranged wife.
As part of a bail package negotiated in advance, he will put up $1 million in cash and will agree to wear a monitoring device. His travel will be restricted and he will surrender his passport, The New York Times reported.
The Manhattan district attorney's office and police have been investigating Weinstein for months, coming under growing pressure from the Time's Up movement and Hollywood actresses to bring the disgraced producer to justice.
Lucia Evans, who said Weinstein forced her into oral sex in 2004, is thought to be at least one of the women whose cases triggered charges.
New York police have previously confirmed an active Weinstein investigation regarding Evans, who was an aspiring actress at the time, and a credible rape allegation after "Boardwalk Empire" actress Paz de la Huerta accused the former producer of raping her twice at her New York apartment in late 2010.
Ben Brafman, Weinstein's powerful defence attorney, said that he intends to move to dismiss the charges, calling them "constitutionally flawed".
Weinstein's career went down in flames last October over sexual assault allegations following bombshell articles in The New York Times and New Yorker, which sparked a sexual harassment watershed across the United States.
More than 100 women have since accused Weinstein of crimes ranging from sexual harassment to assault and rape going back 40 years.
Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are among than two dozen actresses who say they were sexually harassed by the producer. A few, including Asia Argento and Rose McGowan, said they were raped.
The outpouring saw people around the world come forward with cases of sexual mistreatment, leading to resignations and sackings of powerful men across industries, and the disgrace of Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.
Evans, now a marketing consultant, told The New Yorker that Weinstein approached her in a club in 2004 and that an assistant subsequently set up a daytime meeting at the Miramax office in Tribeca.
"He forced me to perform oral sex on him," she said. "I said, over and over, 'I don't want to do this, stop, don't,'" she added.
Weinstein has denied any non-consensual sex and has reportedly been in treatment for sex addiction.
His downfall has seen his Weinstein Company file for bankruptcy, his fashion designer wife, Georgina Chapman, leave him and sparked police investigations in London and Los Angeles.
But for all the media hoopla Friday, experts warn that any trial -- let alone a criminal conviction -- would still be a long way off.
Sexual assault cases, particularly those that allegedly happened years ago, are notoriously hard to prosecute and often lack substantive forensic evidence.
Weinstein's lawyer Brafman is one of America's most celebrated criminal defense attorneys.
His past clients include former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who ultimately escaped criminal prosecution for alleged sexual assault in 2011.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, whose case against Strauss-Kahn fell apart, has been heavily criticised for failing to bring a criminal case against Weinstein for allegedly groping and harassing Italian model Ambra Battilana.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2018-05-25