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Lawsuit makes new rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein

The suit by three women says the movie mogul’s lawyers used “deceptive tactics” to pry away “visual and audio evidence” from alleged victims.

Harvey Weinstein with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, left,

Harvey Weinstein with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, left, at his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Pool

An explosive new lawsuit filed Friday by three women who claim they were sexually mistreated by movie power broker Harvey Weinstein alleges that his criminal defense firm used “deceptive tactics” to pry away “visual and audio evidence” from alleged victims last fall.

Melissa Thompson, one of the three, alleged that Weinstein raped her in 2011, and after stories about his sexual conduct surfaced publicly in October 2017, a lawyer from the firm of Ben Brafman — who now handles Weinstein’s criminal case — got information by telling her the firm represented victims.

“She did not learn that Brafman was actually Weinstein’s attorney until after turning over the evidence in her possession, causing her credible fear for her safety, severe emotional distress, and injury to her business and property,” said the Manhattan federal court lawsuit.

Weinstein was charged last week with a 2013 rape and forcing a woman to engage in oral sex in 2014. He is represented by Brafman, a top Manhattan criminal defense lawyer whose celebrity clients have included Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli and NFL star Plaxico Burress.

Brafman, in a statement, distanced himself from the attorney identified in the lawsuit — Alexander Spiro — describing him as a former associate who left to practice law at a different firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, in September 2017, a month before the alleged contact.

“To the extent he spoke with or met with any of these women, he did so on his own time after he had left this firm and was already employed by Quinn Emanuel,” Brafman said. “In addition, while at this firm, he never met with Mr. Weinstein nor did he have any responsibility whatsoever in connection with our representation of Mr. Weinstein.”

Spiro, whose own celebrity client roster has included Jay-Z, said in a separate statement that he never had or “would” represent Weinstein.

“I left the Brafman firm well before Brafman ever represented Weinstein,” Spiro said, “and in fact I represent one of the key victims, but Ms. Thompson has never been a client.” A spokesman said Spiro represents Ambra Batillana Gutierrez, who made a complaint about Weinstein in 2015.

Dozens of women have come forward to accuse Weinstein since reports of rampant sexual misbehavior were published last fall. Friday’s lawsuit was the second filed in Manhattan that seeks class action status for victims and alleges he oversaw a “Weinstein Sexual Enterprise” akin to a racketeering conspiracy.

In addition to Weinstein, it names directors of the now-defunct Weinstein Company as defendants. Brafman’s firm and other lawyers as well as detective agencies, producers, casting directors and journalists are identified as “participants” in the enterprise who helped “facilitate” his sexual conduct.

Thompson — who filed the suit with actresses Caitlin Dulany and Larissa Gomes — said she met Weinstein when she was pitching a marketing platform, and he flirted and touched her leg in their first meeting at his office, where she had turned on a video feed to demonstrate her product.

He later lured her to a hotel room at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel to finalize a deal, and then raped her, leaving her “nauseous and distressed” and “dirty and ashamed,” the suit said, never reporting it to authorities because of fear of Weinstein but confiding in a friend who put her in touch with Spiro in October 2017.

The friend, a New York modeling executive named Paolo Zampolli, who has reported ties to both Weinstein and President Donald Trump, urged her to follow through by citing Brafman’s credentials, and later insisted Brafman had told him “he was representing girls,” the suit alleged. Zampolli called accounts of his role “fake news.”

Thompson said that in her exchanges with Spiro she used his aspiro@brafllaw.com email address, communicated with him about legal strategy for the victims, and even sent along “video evidence” of the encounter, only to learn from news reports in November that Brafman was representing Weinstein.

At that point, she said, she texted Spiro. “What? No I don’t work there. Nor do I rep anyone involved,” he responded.

The exchange left Thompson feel “super uneasy,” the lawsuit said, adding, “Weinstein had used his network to show her just how far his reach stretched into her own circle.”

A spokesman for Spiro said he had used his Brafman email during the transition after switching firms in late September, but was no longer working for Brafman. Weinstein has denied ever engaging in nonconsensual sex, and a Weinstein lawyer said Friday he would move to dismiss the new suit.

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