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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Harvey Weinstein indicted in New York rape case

It is the first criminal case to arise from the many allegations against the former studio boss

A Manhattan grand jury voted on Wednesday to indict disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on rape and sex crime charges. Don Emmert/ AFP 
A Manhattan grand jury voted on Wednesday to indict disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on rape and sex crime charges. Don Emmert/ AFP 

Harvey Weinstein was indicted on Wednesday on rape and criminal sex act charges, furthering the first criminal case to arise from a slate of sexual misconduct allegations against the former movie mogul.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr said the indictment brings Mr Weinstein "another step closer to accountability".

The announcement came hours after Mr Weinstein's lawyers said he would decline to testify before the grand jury because there wasn't enough time to prepare him and "political pressure" made an indictment unavoidable.

A statement issued through a Weinstein spokesman said the 66-year-old film producer, who has denied the allegations, learned of the specific charges and the accusers' identities only after turning himself in on Friday. With a deadline set for Wednesday afternoon to testify or not, his request for more time was denied, the statement said.

"Finally, Mr Weinstein's attorneys noted that 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," the statement said.

District Attorney Vance said that the Weinstein camp's "recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable".

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"We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand," District Attorney Vance said.

Weinstein was charged on Friday with raping one woman and committing a criminal sex act by compelling oral sex from another. A grand jury continued hearing evidence in the case, as it had been doing for weeks.

Defendants have the right to testify in a grand jury's secret proceedings but often do not, for various reasons.

Freed on $1 million (Dh3.7 million) bail and electronic monitoring, he was due back in court on July 30, although that date may now be moved up in light of the indictment.

Beyond the two women involved in the case, dozens more women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault in various locales.

He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, and his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said that Mr Weinstein was "confident he's going to clear his name" in the New York prosecution.

Mr Brafman called the rape allegation "absurd", saying that the accuser and Weinstein had a decade-long, consensual sexual relationship that began before and continued after the alleged 2013 attack.

The woman, who has not been identified publicly, told investigators Weinstein confined her in a hotel room and raped her.

The other accuser in the case, former actress Lucia Evans, has gone public with her account of Weinstein forcing her to perform oral sex at his office in 2004. The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults unless they come forward publicly.

District Attorney Vance, a Democrat, came under public pressure from women's groups to prosecute Weinstein after declining to do so in 2015, when an Italian model went to police to say Weinstein had groped her during a meeting.

Police set up a sting in which the woman recorded herself confronting Weinstein and him apologising for his conduct. But District Attorney Vance decided there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges.

Gov Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, ordered the state attorney general to investigate how District Attorney Vance handled that matter.