The Oscar-winning composer of "You Light Up My Life" was charged Tuesday with raping and sexually assaulting 11 young women lured by fantasies of stardom - nine of them in the eight weeks before he suffered a major stroke in 2008.
Joseph Brooks, 71, also known for creative work such as the Chock Full O' Nuts "heavenly coffee" jingle, used Craigslist to solicit women from the West Coast for acting jobs, flew them to New York and then raped them at his Manhattan apartment, prosecutors said.
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Brooks made some of the women drink wine to "incapacitate" them as part of their purported audition, and used force on others. Four of the women were 18, one was 19 and the oldest was 30.
Investigators were unable to charge Brooks in another rape allegation from 1970 because of the statute of limitations. "We think there are probably other cases but we couldn't wait until we ran down all the leads," Morgenthau said.
Brooks is charged in 82 counts of a 91-count indictment. Prosecutors also charged his assistant, Shawni Lucier, 42, with nine counts of criminal facilitation for helping him set up the meetings with knowledge and reassuring women's mothers when they called.
Police said it was a challenging case, noting that one woman admitted agreeing to some sexual acts, and all came to his apartment and drank wine voluntarily.
"But there were too many victims telling you the same thing again and again and again," said Lt. Adam Lamboy, commander of the Manhattan Special Victims Squad.
A handcuffed Brooks walked with a pronounced limp at his late afternoon arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court and slurred and stuttered his words as he pleaded not guilty.
His lawyer, Jeffrey Hoffman, said he lost use of his right side in an April 2008 stroke. "He contests the charges," Hoffman said. "They are ridiculous."
Prosecutor Maxine Rosenthal described Brooks as a "tall, very fit man" before the stroke, and questioned the extent of his disability. Judge Charles Solomon released Brooks, giving him 48 hours to post $250,000 in cash or $500,000 in other assets.
With Rocco Parascandola