#MeToo sends fig­ures into ex­ile, not jail

The Progress-Index Weekend - - NEWS - FILE PHOTO] By Andrew Dal­ton

LOS AN­GE­LES — The #MeToo move­ment has sent dozens of on­ce­pow­er­ful Hol­ly­wood play­ers into ex­ile, but few of them have been placed in hand­cuffs or jail cells. And it’s in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that the lack of crim­i­nal charges may re­main the norm.

Har­vey We­in­stein has been charged with sex­ual as­sault in New York, and Bill Cosby was sent to prison in Penn­syl­va­nia in the year since sto­ries on We­in­stein in The New York Times and The New Yorker set off waves of rev­e­la­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct in Hol­ly­wood. But those two cen­tral fig­ures are ex­cep­tions.

A task force launched last No­vem­ber by Los An­ge­les County District At­tor­ney Jackie Lacey to han­dle the surge in al­le­ga­tions against en­ter­tain­ment fig­ures has taken up crim­i­nal cases in­volv­ing nearly two dozen en­ter­tain­mentin­dus­try fig­ures. None has been charged.

The lack of pros­e­cu­tions stems from a clash be­tween the #MeToo ethos, which en­cour­ages vic­tims to come for­ward years or even decades af­ter abuse and ha­rass­ment that they’ve kept pri­vate, and a le­gal sys­tem that de­mands fast re­port­ing of crimes and hard ev­i­dence.

The task force has con­sid­ered charges against 22 sus­pects, in­clud­ing We­in­stein, Kevin Spacey, di­rec­tor James To­back and for­mer CBS CEO Les­lie Moonves, all of whom have de­nied en­gag­ing in any sex that was not con­sen­sual.

Charges have al­ready been re­jected for most. Cases in­volv­ing six sus­pects, in­clud­ing We­in­stein and Spacey, both of whom have mul­ti­ple ac­cusers, re­main open.

In 14 of the closed cases, charges were de­clined be­cause the al­le­ga­tions were re­ported too late and thus out­side the statute of lim­i­ta­tions. The rest were turned down ei­ther for in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence or be­cause the ac­cuser re­fused to co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors af­ter ini­tially re­port­ing the in­ci­dents.

While dis­ap­pointed in the lack of re­sults, sev­eral ac­cusers said they were still glad they talked to po­lice and prose­cu­tors, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons both prac­ti­cal and emo­tional.

“For me it was not nec­es­sar­ily clo­sure, but one of the health­i­est things I’ve ever done for my­self,” said Melissa Schu­man, whose case dat­ing to 2003 against Nick Carter of the Back­street Boys was re­jected over the statute of lim­i­ta­tions. “It felt ther­a­peu­tic to tell the au­thor­i­ties, to be able to take it out of my body and out of my mind and re­port it.”

Fa­tima Goss Graves, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Women’s Law Cen­ter, which over­sees the Time’s Up le­gal de­fense fund, said for some “the act of re­port­ing, putting it on the record is crit­i­cal, even if they’re beyond the lim­i­ta­tions.”

When law en­force­ment agen­cies wel­come women to re­port their ex­pe­ri­ences, it can even­tu­ally re­sult in more pros­e­cu­tions, she said.

“In too many cases law en­force­ment has sent a sig­nal that they won’t treat these is­sues,” Goss Graves said. “If you’ve cre­ated a cli­mate and space that is friendly to peo­ple com­ing for­ward, more peo­ple will come for­ward.”

Schu­man said she found just such a cli­mate. She was well treated by task force in­ves­ti­ga­tors and the po­lice in what could have been a much tougher process.

“I re­ally felt sup­ported, and lis­tened to, and cared-for and be­lieved,” Schu­man said.

Carter has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions from the start. He said through his lawyer when charges were de­clined that he felt con­fi­dent there would be no ba­sis for charges and was happy to put the mat­ter be­hind him. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive did not re­spond to a re­quest Fri­day for fur­ther com­ment.

[AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this July 9 photo, Har­vey We­in­stein is es­corted in hand­cuffs to a court­room in New York.

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