Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced on Wednesday that a grand jury has indicted disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein on charges of rape and forcing a woman to have oral sex with him.
“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” Vance said.
The announcement follows Weinstein’s arrest Friday on a criminal complaint, which charged him with forcing a woman — later identified as actress Lucia Evans — to engage in oral sex in 2004 at a location used by his Miramax film company, and the 2013 rape of a still unidentified woman.
The three count indictment accuses him of engaging in oral sex by “forcible compulsion,” and charges two different legal theories for the alleged rape — intercourse by forcible compulsion, which is first-degree rape, and third degree rape for simply doing it without consent.
Multiple actresses and others have publicly accused Weinstein since last fall in news reports and lawsuits of using his power in the movie industry to engage in sexual misconduct, but Weinstein has denied ever engaging in nonconsensual sexual acts.
Weinstein defense lawyer Ben Brafman said earlier Wednesday that Weinstein had decided not to appear before the grand jury to plead his case, and in a statement after the indictment he said it didn’t come as a surprise.
“We asked the District Attorney for more time so that Mr Weinstein’s attorneys could gather the material needed to properly prepare him for his grand jury testimony but that request was denied,” Brafman wrote.
The defense lawyer also predicted Weinstein would be acquitted. “We remind everyone that an Indictment is merely a formal accusation,” Brafman said. “Mr Weinstein intends to enter a plea of Not Guilty and vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies.”
Since last week, Brafman has complained that damning publicity made it hard to get a fair hearing over incidents alleged victims didn’t report to police for years, and said Weinstein should not be convicted of a crime for engaging in boorish “casting couch” practices that have been standard Hollywood behavior for years.
The defense lawyer also told reporters on Tuesday that the unnamed woman involved in the alleged rape was a woman that Weinstein had a “consensual” relationship with for 10 years, both before and after the alleged incident, and characterized that charge as “absurd.”
Vance, in his statement announcing the indictment, praised the women behind the charges, calling them “survivors.”
“Our office will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs,” the district attorney said. “The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable.”
The charges follow months of pressure on Vance, who has faced sharp criticism for refusing to prosecute Weinstein in 2015 after a model accused him of groping her, and the NYPD had her secretly record a conversation that police believed corroborated her account.
After stories about Weinstein’s conduct surfaced last year, Vance faced questions about whether political donations from lawyers linked to Weinstein figured in his refusal to prosecute. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered a probe by the state attorney general of the district attorney’s actions, which is ongoing.
Weinstein, 66, who is free on $1 million cash bail, was ousted last year from The Weinstein Company amid allegations of sexual misconduct, and the company has since collapsed. Vance’s office is investigating possible additional charges against him, and Manhattan federal prosecutors also have an investigation.