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Harvey Weinstein indicted by New York grand jury on rape charges

The producer's attorney said he plans to plead not guilty.
Image: Harvey Weinstein Turns Himself In After Sex Assault Investigation In NYC
Harvey Weinstein turns himself in to the New York Police Department's First Precinct in Manhattan on May 25, 2018.Kevin Hagen / Getty Images

Harvey Weinstein was indicted Wednesday by a Manhattan grand jury on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act in connection with allegations by two women — an outcome his own attorney said was "inevitable."

"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 Vance said in a statement.

Weinstein's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said the disgraced movie producer will plead not guilty and file a motion to dismiss the indictment. "If this case actually proceeds to trial, we expect Mr. Weinstein to be acquitted," he said.

Allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein unleashed the current #MeToo movement. He was arrested Friday and arraigned on charges of rape in the first and third degree and first-degree commission of a criminal sexual act.

One accuser, Lucia Evans, says Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex after luring her to his Tribeca office for a meeting in 2004. The other woman, who has not been publicly identified, alleges that Weinstein raped her in 2013 at a Manhattan hotel.

Vance said the investigation against Weinstein, who has been accused of a range of sexual misconduct by other women, is ongoing and urged any victims to contact prosecutors.

One of his accusers, actress Rose McGowan, tweeted a message of support to the two women at the center of the Manhattan case.

Evans tweeted back: "Proud to fight alongside you."

Weinstein's indictment was announced a few hours after the 2 p.m. deadline for him to testify before the grand jury came and went. Brafman announced in the morning that his client would not appear because he didn't have enough time or information about the allegations to prep him.

"Our request for a postponement of his appearance before the grand jury was denied," said Brafman, adding that he was "unfairly denied access to critical information about this case that was needed to defend [Weinstein] before the grand jury."

"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 from Brafman's office said.

Vance declined comment on the specifics of Brafman's remarks and said his office "will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs."

"The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable. We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand."

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 Vance

Brafman has already given glimpses of his defense strategy, saying after the arraignment that Weinstein did not "invent the casting couch in Hollywood" and that "bad behavior" doesn't necessarily translate into criminal acts.

He also said that the woman who alleges rape had a "10-year consensual sexual relationship that continued for years" after the 2013 incident in the hotel. The district attorney's office declined to comment on that claim.

Jennifer Becker, deputy legal director for Legal Momentum, a New York-based nonprofit women’s legal defense group, said it's hard to buy Brafman's suggestion that the charges were suddenly sprung on the defense given that both sides negotiated the terms of his surrender.

"They didn’t just show up at his home at dawn and take him into custody," Becker said. "I think that given one of these complaining witnesses has also spoken publicly, unlike a lot of other criminal prosecutions, Mr. Weinstein has had a lot of notice that he was being investigated."

She also said that while national outrage over sexual abuse by powerful men may have triggered Vance's interest in Weinstein, that doesn't mean he was pressured into bringing charges.

"Even if they began an investigation because of the attention garnered by all the victims coming forward, the district attorney has to be guided by the evidence, and they wouldn’t be filing charges unless the evidence supports those charges," she said.

The charges in New York represent the only criminal case against Weinstein on the books, though authorities in Los Angeles and London are also investigating accusations.

Weinstein is out on $1 million bail, wearing an ankle bracelet. He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sexual contact.