Open­ing act for jus­tice

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NEW YORK As the front door of a crim­i­nal court­room opened to usher in Har­vey We­in­stein, the once-pow­er­ful movie mogul looked out at the large gath­er­ing of lawyers and re­porters and, a dazed ex­pres­sion on his face, mouthed one word: ‘‘Wow.’’

We­in­stein – in court in New York City yes­ter­day to face three felony charges, in­clud­ing first­de­gree rape – was con­fronting the pub­lic for the first time since dozens of women stepped for­ward last year to accuse him of sex­ual mis­con­duct, spurring the #MeToo move­ment.

But the mo­ment also of­fered an op­por­tu­nity for the pub­lic to con­front We­in­stein, a rare en­ter­tain­ment fig­ure to face crim­i­nal charges for al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct, and to con­front the cul­ture of abuse and priv­i­lege he came to rep­re­sent.

The charges against We­in­stein, filed yes­ter­day by Man­hat­tan Dis­trict At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance, also in­clude com­mit­ting a crim­i­nal sex­ual act in the first de­gree, and rape in the third de­gree. They come af­ter a months-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion into in­ci­dents in­volv­ing We­in­stein and one­time as­pir­ing ac­tress Lu­cia Evans in 2004 and an un­named ac­cuser in 2013.

Even as #MeToo ad­vo­cates see progress in the fact that We­in­stein is now fac­ing crim­i­nal charges, they won­der what it will take to bring oth­ers to jus­tice.

We­in­stein, 66, who posted US$1 mil­lion bail, has de­nied the charges.

Caro­line Held­man, an Oc­ci­den­tal Col­lege pro­fes­sor and ad­vo­cate for sex­ual as­sault sur­vivors who has worked with ac­cusers of We­in­stein and co­me­dian Bill Cosby, was one of many ac­tivists to re­act to the ar­raign­ment with mixed feel­ings, say­ing it seemed to re­quire some of the worst of­fences be­ing com­mit­ted just to merit a chance at pros­e­cu­tion.

‘‘I’m re­ally happy to see [the We­in­stein pros­e­cu­tion] hap­pen­ing, but I do think these cases are still the uni­corns of the #MeToo move­ment and that our le­gal sys­tem is still out­dated,’’ she said.

Many of the other me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment fig­ures ac­cused of harassment or sex­ual mis­deeds have avoided pros­e­cu­tion.

Con­vict­ing We­in­stein this time may be a tall or­der. With­out phys­i­cal ev­i­dence, a case can be­come a ver­bal bat­tle be­tween al­leged vic­tim and al­leged per­pe­tra­tor, some­thing a de­fence at­tor­ney could use to sow rea­son­able doubt, ex­perts say.

One is­sue We­in­stein pros­e­cu­tors are not fac­ing is a statute of lim­i­ta­tions, which can of­ten ex­pire while vic­tims, pos­si­bly trau­ma­tised, re­frain for years from com­ing for­ward.

Ex­perts are also tak­ing note of the suc­cess­ful strat­egy used by pros­e­cu­tors in the case of Cosby, who was con­victed on three counts of ag­gra­vated in­de­cent as­sault last month in AP Penn­syl­va­nia. A jury could not reach a ver­dict last year, when only two ac­cusers were al­lowed to tes­tify. A new jury found Cosby guilty af­ter six ac­cusers tes­ti­fied.

There was plenty of sat­is­fac­tion and relief among the scores of We­in­stein ac­cusers as the dis­graced movie mogul was ar­raigned. But emo­tions were mixed.

Ac­tress Rose McGowan tweeted: ‘‘We got you, Har­vey We­in­stein.’’ But she also ex­pressed un­cer­tainty about how the case would play out in what she called an ‘‘elu­sive’’ jus­tice sys­tem.

Oth­ers, like Louisette Geiss, who is a lead plain­tiff in a class ac­tion law­suit against We­in­stein, warned that there was a long way to go be­fore ul­ti­mate vin­di­ca­tion.

‘‘This is a win, but not THE win,’’ said Geiss, who al­leges that We­in­stein once tried to phys­i­cally force her to watch him mas­tur­bate. ‘‘The win would be him be­hind bars, not liv­ing on an es­tate some­where.

‘‘He’s not tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for a sin­gle one of these vic­tims,’’ she said. ‘‘He looks like he’s just go­ing through the ma­chin­ery to get to the next step.’’

An­other ac­cuser, ac­tress Caitlin Du­lany, who has al­leged a 1996 en­counter with We­in­stein in which he picked her up at her apart­ment be­fore a din­ner and stripped naked, said the day had mean­ing not only to those who had pub­licly ac­cused We­in­stein but to other vic­tims who had not felt able to come for­ward.

On Twit­ter, some were more out­spo­ken than oth­ers.

‘‘To­day Har­vey We­in­stein will take his first step on his in­evitable de­scent to hell,’’ wrote an­other ac­cuser, ac­tress Asia Ar­gento.

A num­ber of women spoke proudly of their con­vic­tion that the We­in­stein case, and the #MeToo reck­on­ing that it sparked, would have a pro­found and per­ma­nent im­pact on how so­ci­ety treats pow­er­ful abusers – and those who come for­ward to accuse them.

‘‘We can’t go back­ward,’’ McGowan said. ‘‘The ge­nie can’t go back in the bot­tle. This is the first time since writ­ten his­tory that women are be­ing be­lieved – be­grudg­ingly, but still.’’

Wash­ing­ton Post, AP

For­mer Hol­ly­wood mogul Har­vey We­in­stein is es­corted into court in New York City af­ter he sur­ren­dered to po­lice to face rape and other charges re­sult­ing from en­coun­ters with two women.

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