Har­vey We­in­stein sur­ren­ders in N.Y. sex­ual as­sault case. Now what?

As po­lice charge the mogul, more bold­faced names are added to a sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dal that’s still grow­ing

Variety - - Contents - Story by GENE MADDAUS

JUST BE­FORE 7: 30 A. M. on May 25, Har­vey We­in­stein stepped out of a black Toy­ota SUV in Lower Man­hat­tan and sur­ren­dered him­self to the New York Po­lice Dept. A scrum of reporters shouted, “Har­vey! Har­vey!” as pho­tog­ra­phers jock­eyed at the bar­ri­cades, as though it were just an­other red car­pet pre­miere.

We­in­stein had emerged from a six-month ex­ile in the Ari­zona desert to be fin­ger­printed and booked on charges of rape and forc- ible oral sex. He wore a navy sport coat over a light-blue sweater and car­ried an arm­load of books.

One of them was a bi­og­ra­phy of Elia Kazan, the play­boy di­rec­tor who was tan­gled up in the Red Scare in the 1950s. Ac­cord­ing to a source, it was a tongue-in- cheek mes­sage to the me­dia, ac­cus­ing them of scape­goat­ing him as part of an­other Hol­ly­wood witch hunt.

We­in­stein is cer­tainly cor­rect that he is not the only man in Hol­ly­wood prey­ing on women. But given the sheer num­ber and sever­ity of his al­leged abuses, he has be­come the fo­cal point of a reck­on­ing over the ways in which women’s am­bi­tions are ex­ploited and thwarted. While We­in­stein was marched alone in hand­cuffs into a Man­hat­tan court­room to en­ter a plea of not guilty, he had a lot of help in get­ting there.

“The cel­e­bra­tion around his charges misses the point,” says Marie Henein, a Toron-

to at­tor­ney who is su­ing We­in­stein, as well as Mi­ra­max and Dis­ney, for sex­ual as­sault. “There is a mea­sure of in­di­vid­ual ac­count­abil­ity, but it re­ally doesn’t ad­dress the sys­temic prob­lems that ex­ist in Hol­ly­wood.”

We­in­stein was such a cel­e­brated fig­ure — drip­ping with Os­cars, the cen­ter of every party — that his down­fall al­most can­not help but force a con­fronta­tion with com­plic­ity. It has not been pretty.

It be­gan in Oc­to­ber with a New York Times ex­posé, which trig­gered a cas­cade of al­le­ga­tions against other pow­er­ful men. Brett Rat­ner was kicked out of his bun­ga­low on the Warner Bros. lot. Kevin Spacey was erased from a movie about J. Paul Getty. A Louis C.K. film dis­ap­peared from the re­lease sched­ule. Just last week, Mor­gan Free­man was dropped as a Visa pitch­man.

Pros­e­cu­tors are re­view­ing dozens of al­le­ga­tions against other prom­i­nent fig­ures, in­clud­ing Steven Sea­gal and Ed West­wick, and some are surely watching the We­in­stein case in trep­i­da­tion about who is next.

But it re­mains to be seen how long-last­ing, and how deep, the reck­on­ing will be. At Dis­ney, there is talk that John Las­seter could re­turn from a self-im­posed “sab­bati-

There is a mea­sure of in­di­vid­ual ac­count­abil­ity, but it doesn’t ad­dress the sys­temic prob­lems.” At­tor­ney Marie Henein

cal,” which fol­lowed ac­cu­sa­tions that he had groped and forcibly kissed women at Pixar and Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios.

Sources have told Va­ri­ety that Dis­ney CEO Bob Iger knew of Las­seter’s be­hav­ior at least as early as 2010, when Las­seter was seen mak­ing out with a staffer at an Os­car wrap party. Yet Dis­ney has not con­ducted an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and some within the com­pany fear that top ex­ec­u­tives are not se­ri­ous about chang­ing the cul­ture.

“If the com­pany al­lows him to come back, that would just be a gi­ant slap in the face to the whole #Metoo move­ment,” said one Dis­ney an­i­ma­tor, who asked not to be named to pro­tect her job. “It sends a mes­sage to the en­tire uni­verse of an­i­ma­tion that if you’re big enough and bad enough and awe­some enough and a cre­ative ge­nius, you can get away with any­thing.”

If con­victed, We­in­stein could face up to 25 years in prison. But struc­tural ac­count­abil­ity may only come in civil court, where at­tor­neys are go­ing af­ter Mi­ra­max, Dis­ney and the We­in­stein Co., the lat­ter of which is now in bank­ruptcy.

Plain­tiffs’ at­tor­neys al­lege that We­in­stein’s pre­da­tion was ig­nored or even fa­cil­i­tated be­cause he was good for the bot­tom line.

Cris Ar­menta, an at­tor­ney who is pur­su­ing a class ac­tion suit, noted that the We­in­stein Co. board of di­rec­tors ap­proved an em­ploy­ment agree­ment that re­quired him to re­im­burse the com­pany for sex­ual mis­con­duct set­tle­ments.

“The sug­ges­tion that the di­rec­tors of his com­pany were un­aware and didn’t con­done it is ab­surd,” she said. “There were lawyers who par­tic­i­pated in the con­fi­den­tial­ity of set­tle­ment agree­ments. There are oth­ers who were aware and helped cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that helped him con­duct him­self the way he did.”

Henein ar­gues that the com­plic­ity is ev­i­dent in the term “the cast­ing couch.”

“You are al­lowed to de­mand sex­ual fa­vors from women to pro­mote them through the in­dus­try. That’s a stan­dard prac­tice,” she said. “Har­vey We­in­stein doesn’t in­vent this. What is the cul­ture that al­lows that?”

The Bill Cosby pros­e­cu­tion of­fered a sim­i­lar les­son in sheer im­punity — but crim­i­nal courts are un­likely to han­dle any but the most egre­gious cases.

In Los An­ge­les, the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice has es­tab­lished a Hol­ly­wood sex crimes task

force to han­dle the in­flux. Yet many of the cases that have been pre­sented to pros­e­cu­tors are beyond the statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

The L.A. County Sher­iff’s Dept. sub­mit­ted a case against Spacey that is be­lieved to be too old to file charges. The of­fice also de­clined to pros­e­cute five cases against di­rec­tor James To­back, find­ing that all were too old, and too low-level, to bring charges now. The NYPD is in­ves­ti­gat­ing To­back as well.

We­in­stein is also un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Scot­land Yard, and the L.A. Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice is look­ing at five cases in­volv­ing the dis­graced mogul. The most likely to lead to pros­e­cu­tion may be an al­le­ga­tion that he raped an Ital­ian model at Mr. C Bev­erly Hills in 2013, which does fall within the statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

But now that New York pros­e­cu­tors have made their move, L.A. Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jackie Lacey may be con­tent to wait her turn.

We­in­stein posted $1 mil­lion cash bail May 25 and has been fit­ted with an an­kle mon­i­tor. For now, he is not al­lowed to leave New York or Con­necti­cut with­out the court’s per­mis­sion — though he may seek ap­proval to re­turn to Ari­zona, where he has been re­ceiv­ing ex­pen­sive ther­apy. He was re­quired to sur­ren­der his pass­port.

A grand jury is ex­pected to in­dict We­in­stein on the sex crimes charges, which would su­per­sede the crim­i­nal com­plaint, at which point his at­tor­ney, Benjamin Braf­man, will move for a dis­missal. We­in­stein’s team is set to ar­gue that Dis­trict At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance faced in­tense po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to bring a case.

The for­mer mogul ap­peared stone­faced in court, say­ing al­most noth­ing as he stood in hand­cuffs. Ac­cord­ing to a source fa­mil­iar with his state of mind, We­in­stein feels al­most re­lieved to have been charged. He did not like wait­ing for Vance’s of­fice to make up its mind. Now, at least, he knows what is in front of him and has a way to fight back.

He may also at­tempt to atone pub­licly. We­in­stein con­tin­ues to be­lieve that he was abu­sive and boor­ish but that he did not cross the line into il­le­gal con­duct. In an­other year or so, he will learn whether a jury agrees with him.

Fac­ing Jus­tice Har­vey We­in­stein leaves Man­hat­tan Crim­i­nal Court with lawyer Benjamin Braf­man af­ter post­ing bail.

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