Harvey Weinstein was indicted Wednesday by a Manhattan grand jury on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act in connection with allegations by two women, prosecutors announced.
“This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.
“Our office will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs. The defendant’s recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable. We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand.”
The indictment came just hours after Weinstein’s attorney announced the disgraced producer would not appear before the grand jury, saying he didn’t have enough time or information to prepare him for testimony.
“Our request for a postponement of his appearance before the Grand Jury was denied,” attorney Ben Brafman said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Weinstein, whose behavior unleashed the #MeToo movement, was arrested Friday and arraigned that afternoon.
One accuser, Lucia Evans, says Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex after luring her to his Tribeca office for a meeting in 2004. The other woman, who has not been publicly identified, alleges Weinstein raped her in 2013 at a Manhattan hotel.
Brafman complained that he was “unfairly denied access to critical information about this case that was needed to defend [Weinstein] before the grand jury,” but he did not provide any details about what he was seeking. Prosecutors had no immediate comment.
“Mr. Weinstein’s attorneys noted that regardless of how compelling Mr. Weinstein’s personal testimony might be, an indictment was inevitable due to the unfair political pressure being placed on [Manhattan District Attorney] Cy Vance to secure a conviction of Mr. Weinstein,” the statement from Brafman’s office said.
Jennifer Becker, deputy legal director for Legal Momentum, a New York-based nonprofit women’s legal defense group, said it’s hard to buy Brafman’s suggestion that the charges were suddenly sprung on the defense given that both sides negotiated the terms of his surrender.
“They didn’t just show up at his home at dawn and take him into custody,” Becker said. “I think that given one of these complaining witnesses has also spoken publicly, unlike a lot of other criminal prosecutions, Mr. Weinstein has had a lot of notice that he was being investigated.”
She also said that while national outrage over sexual abuse by powerful men may have triggered the DA’s interest in Weinstein, that doesn’t mean he was pressured into bringing charges.
“Even if they began an investigation because of the attention garnered by all the victims coming forward, the district attorney has to be guided by the evidence, and they wouldn’t be filing charges unless the evidence supports those charges,” she said.
Brafman has already given glimpses of his defense strategy, saying after the arraignment that Weinstein did not “invent the casting couch in Hollywood” and that “bad behavior” doesn’t necessarily translate into criminal acts.
He also said that the woman who alleges she was raped had a “10-year consensual sexual relationship that continued for years” after the 2013 incident in the hotel. The DA’s office declined to comment on that claim.
Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of a range of sexual misconduct, from inappropriate comments to sexual assault. The charges in New York represent the only criminal case on the books, though authorities in Los Angeles and London are also investigating.
Weinstein is out on $1 million bail, wearing an ankle bracelet. He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sexual contact.