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Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal explained

Producer Harvey Weinstein faces a lawsuit claiming he engaged in "sex trafficking," filed by a British actress. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alexander Koerner

Since allegations of sexual misconduct connected to top Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein first emerged in October, an avalanche of details has surfaced. Accusers have come forward to share their stories, a publication leaked police sting recordings and celebrities have voiced support.

The latest evidence of his fall from the Hollywood heights: state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been ordered to review the Manhattan district attorney’s handling of 2015 sexual assault allegations made against Weinstein by Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. The review was ordered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cuomo said in a news release on Monday that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is in the process of investigating a separate case involving witnesses and facts from the 2015 investigation, which is expected to be completed within about 45 days.

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A lawsuit filed on Dec. 6 in Manhattan court with six women attached sued the former producer, The Weinstein Co., its board of directors and Miramax.

“Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others,” the lawsuit said. “Rather, over time, Weinstein enlisted the aid of the Complicit Producers, along with other firms and individuals, to facilitate and conceal his pattern of unwanted sexual conduct.”

In November, the NYPD said investigators were building evidence against Weinstein after a woman came forward with a "credible and detailed narrative" alleging sexual assault against the producer. He hired a Manhattan criminal defense attorney to represent him.

The revelations came just days after the Producers Guild of America banned the disgraced studio mogul for life from the trade organization. He was also expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Weinstein, formerly the co-chairman of his film production company The Weinstein Co., was fired from his post on Oct. 8, days after the The New York Times published a report detailing alleged sexual harassment claims filed by several women he worked with in the past. Allegations were brought forward by Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and several former and current Weinstein Co. employees, according to the report.

His termination came after the article exposed that Weinstein had paid off eight sexual harassment accusers, many of them anonymous, within the past three decades, including a “young assistant” in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant one year later and a model in 2015.

Weinstein responded to the Times report by saying, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I have a long way to go.”

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Two days later, The New Yorker published a report documenting the statements by 13 women who recalled being sexually assaulted and harassed by the exec. Accusations included rape, exposing and touching himself, asking women to watch him shower, as well as other forced sexual encounters. Other celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Rosanna Arquette also came forward in a Times report claiming Weinstein harassed them.

Read on for a breakdown of the allegations, the accusers, and more.

Who is Harvey Weinstein?  

Harvey Weinstein, 66, is a film studio executive from Flushing whose award-winning projects include “Pulp Fiction,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago,” “August: Osage County,” “The Iron Lady” and several others. Weinstein left the production company Miramax in 2005 to establish his own, The Weinstein Co., alongside his brother. He held the title of co-chairman from 2005 to 2017. He went on a leave of absence on Oct. 6, before being terminated on Oct. 8.

The allegations

In the days following The New York Times' initial report, dozens of well-known actresses and women who worked behind the scenes have come forward about their experiences with Weinstein.

Many of the recounted stories have similarities — including one-on-one encounters with the producer clad in only a robe. Kate Beckinsale, in a lengthy Instagram post, said she was 17 when she arrived at a hotel, expecting to meet Weinstein in a conference room.

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"When I arrived, reception told me to go to his room. He opened the door in his bathrobe. I was incredibly naive and young and it did not cross my mind that this older, unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him," Beckinsale recalled, adding that she declined an offer of alcohol and left.

"A few years later he asked me if he had tried anything with me in that first meeting. I realized he couldn't remember if he had assaulted me or not."

One of the more vocal alleged victims, Rose McGowan (“Charmed,” “Scream”) was among the women who reportedly received a settlement payment from Weinstein following a sexual harassment claim. Actress Ashley Judd, Zelda Perkins, a former Miramax production assistant, and Emily Nestor, an employee of Weinstein’s, among others, all detailed alleged sexual advances in hotel rooms. The Times reported that the exec asked an anonymous former assistant and former employee, Laura Madden, to give him massages.

Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that while she was working on the 1996 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” Weinstein asked the actress back to his room at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for massages, according to the Times. Paltrow, 22 years old at the time, said she feared for her job if she spoke up against him.

Angelina Jolie said Weinstein made a similar advance toward her in the late 1990s, which she rejected. “Pulp Fiction’s” Rosanna Arquette and actress Judith Godrèche shared nearly identical accounts with the paper.

The New Yorker first brought to light a 2015 recording on Oct. 10 of Weinstein asking model Gutierrez to come to his hotel room and watch him shower. Weinstein can be heard continuing to attempt to persuade her to accompany him to his room as she declines multiple times.

“You must come here now,” Weinstein says as Battilana Gutierrez declines. The producer is heard admitting to previously groping her.

Weinstein also faces a lawsuit claiming he engaged in “sex trafficking,” filed by British actress Kadian Noble. The actress claims the producer promised her a role if she didn’t oppose to his “wishes.” Noble said he lured her into a French hotel  in 2014, groped her and "used force" to prevent her from leaving. She initially said she felt “compelled to comply because of the tangible and intangible benefits” that came with knowing Weinstein. The lawsuit was filed under a federal sex trafficking law.

“Harvey Weinstein actively had no intention of following through with his promise of a role . . ., ” the lawsuit said. “Instead, he used this ploy as a fraudulent means of obtaining sexual gratification.”

In December, actress Salma Hayek also detailed Weinstein's "Machiavellian rage" in a New York Times article. Calling the former producer her “monster,” she claimed he threatened to shut down the production of 2002’s “Frida” if she didn’t agree to a sex scene with another woman. Adding that she was inspired to share her story after others came forward, she said she shielded numerous unwanted sexual advances and was met with rage that “terrified” her.

Industry fallout

Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has long looked away from alleged and documented shocking behavior — Bill Cosby and Mel Gibson are still members — on Oct. 14 it ousted Weinstein. In a statement, its 54-member board of governors said it "voted well in excess of the required two-thirds majority to immediately expel him from the Academy." Earlier in the week, the producer was suspended from BAFTA, the British film academy.

The Producers Guild of America's voted to expel Weinstein on Oct. 16.

In March, the The Weinstein Company Holdings LLC filed for voluntary bankruptcy and ended all nondisclosure agreements that prevented victims from speaking out, according to reports.

The NYPD’s role

Gutierrez was wearing a wire placed by the NYPD at the time of the 2015 recording. The model had filed a complaint with the department that she had been groped by the producer during what she thought was a casting meeting at his office in TriBeCa, according to The New Yorker.

The NYPD and the Manhattan district attorney’s office both released statements Oct. 10 stating that the producer was being investigated that year after Battilana Gutierrez brought the case to light.

Manhattan Chief Assistant District Attorney Karen Friedman-Agnifilo said, referring to the wire, “While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law.”

The department on Oct. 12 confirmed it had launched an investigation into Weinstein.

"Based on information referenced in published news reports the NYPD is conducting a review to determine if there are any additional complaints relating to the Harvey Weinstein matter," the NYPD said in a statement. "No filed complaints have been identified as of this time."

Since then, the department has fielded a number of possible leads, but it wasn't until Nov. 3 that police confirmed they are building a case against Weinstein. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce has said a woman came forward nine days prior with allegations of sexual assault against him. "We have an actual case here."

Boyce has said the alleged victim, whom he wouldn’t identify, “put forth a credible and detailed narrative” that police corroborated and took to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

Boyce did not say that any arrest was imminent. Because Weinstein is not in the state, a New York judge would have to approve an arrest warrant.

In response, Weinstein hired Manhattan criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman to represent his case in New York City, a spokesman said on Nov. 8. The spokesman said Weinstein and his lawyer do "not believe an indictment of [the producer] is imminent."

On March 19, Cuomo said he directed Schneiderman to review the Manhattan district attorney’s handling of Gutierrez’s 2015 sexual assault allegations.

On Dec. 6, Zoe Brock, Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Nannette Klatt, Sarah Ann Masse and Melissa Sagemiller filed a lawsuit seeking class action status against the former producer. They claim Weinstein used his "power to coerce and force young women to engage in sexual acts with him."

#RoseArmy

McGowan, 44, has been one of the most vocal of the accusers since the release of the Times report. The actress has even been discussing abuse in Hollywood on her Twitter account with #RoseArmy far before the Weinstein scandal became public news.

On Oct. 12, she was suspended from the social media platform after sending out a flood of tweets exposing the alleged misconduct of Weinstein and the reported involvement of some of Hollywood's top actors, including Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. She has also called for the entire Weinstein Co. board to resign from their posts following the allegations.

Twitter later revealed the actress had been suspended for violating its terms of service, which included sending a tweet including a private phone number.

When she gained full access to her account, she alleged that Weinstein had raped her.

In six separate tweets tagging Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the “Charmed” actress said he told the studio’s head “over and over” that she had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein. McGowan wrote that she “begged studio head to do the right thing” and was ignored, adding that the studio went on to win a “dirty Oscar.” She didn’t specify which film she was referring to.

Did The Weinstein Co. know?

The belief that The Weinstein Co. knew of its co-chairman’s alleged misconduct for years was among the claims fired off by McGowan on social media. Though Bob Weinstein and the company’s president, David Glasser, claimed they had no involvement in settlement payments and were unaware of the complaints, a Times report Thursday stated the company knew since at least 2015. Citing company records and an interview with David Boies, Weinstein’s former lawyer, the report explains that the board was aware of “three or four confidential settlements” that the exec had made with women. A board member who handled Weinstein’s 2015 contract negotiations said in an interview that he assumed the settlements regarded consensual encounters.

The squashed report and Matt Damon connection

On Oct. 8, reporter Sharon Waxman published a first-person account on The Wrap detailing why the allegations that stretch decades weren’t reported sooner. Waxman said while working for the Times in 2004, she took on a project looking into accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein regarding business trips in Europe while he was working under Miramax. While investigating, she said she was able to locate a woman in London who was “paid off” after an “unwanted sexual encounter with” the exec. But Waxman’s story never ran.

“After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for [Fabrizio] Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted,” she wrote. A former Miramax executive working in Italy, Lombardo has been accused (by Asia Argento, among others) of helping to set up meetings with Weinstein.

Damon worked alongside Weinstein on a few projects including “Good Will Hunting” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” After The Wrap report was published, he was bashed on social media by celebrities, including McGowan.

The actor denied The Wrap’s accusations that he tried to cover up alleged misconduct by Weinstein in an exclusive interview with Deadline Oct. 10.

Accusations end Weinstein’s relationship

Weinstein’s wife Georgina Chapman publicly announced she had decided to split from her husband Tuesday night. In her statement, released to People, the Marchesa fashion label co-founder said the reports had left her heartbroken for the alleged victims.

“My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” her statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.” The exec released a follow-up statement to the publication saying he stands behind her decision.

Chapman, 41, married Weinstein in 2007. The couple has two children together, ages 4 and 7.  

Celebrities speak out

Dozens of A-list celebrities who have worked alongside Weinstein on award-winning projects have come forward since the allegations were made public to share their shock.

On Monday, McGowan wished Weinstein a happy birthday in a video posted on Twitter, warning him: “I told you we’d be coming.”

Meryl Streep was one of the first to speak up. Streep once referred to Weinstein as a “god” during her Academy Awards acceptance speech called the women who came forward “heroes” and stressed that she was unaware that the alleged abuse was taking place.

Ben Affleck, who starred in the Weinstein-produced “Shakespeare in Love” and “Good Will Hunting,” said he was “saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades.”

Joining them to speak out in support of the accusers are Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet, George Clooney, Julianne Moore, Glenn Close, and several others.

Mixed opinions draw ire

Though many celebrities spoke out in favor of the accusers, some famous names have released statements urging the public not to jump to conclusions against Weinstein, who has not been charged in these alleged cases.

In a since-deleted Instagram video, actress Lindsay Lohan said she has had only positive experiences working with the producer in the past. Saying she feels “very bad” for him, she urged Weinstein’s wife to “take a stand and be there for her husband.”

Fashion designer Donna Karan, of the brand DKNY, was recorded at a red carpet event on Oct. 8 in Los Angeles implying that women “ask for it” by “presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality.”

The designer later retracted her statement, saying her comments were taken out of context.

“Sexual harassment is NOT acceptable and this is an issue that MUST be addressed once and for all regardless of the individual,” Karan told The Associated Press.

Allegations against Bob Weinstein

Nearly two weeks after investigations into Harvey Weinstein peaked, Spike network announced it was also looking into reports of sexual harassment filed against his brother, Bob. Variety reported the former executive producer of "The Mist," Amanda Segel, alleged Bob pressed her to attend dinners with him and invited her to his hotel and home in 2016. The two reportedly reached an agreement that limited contact between the two. Bob's lawyer, Bert Fields, claimed the Variety report was "riddled" with "false and misleading assertions."

With Reuters and Newsday