A week of major developments in the ongoing Hollywood sexual harassment scandals culminated on Friday morning in New York City, where former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was arrested and arraigned after turning himself in to Manhattan authorities. He has been charged with first- and third-degree rape and with committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree.
Weinstein walked uncuffed into a New York police precinct through a crowd of media, who called out questions such as, “Is this an admission of guilt?” and “Why did it take you so long?”
Weinstein made no comment, but his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, later told reporters outside the courthouse that the disgraced film executive plans to plead “not guilty” to the criminal charges.
Weinstein left the precinct in handcuffs but free on bail, thanks to an agreement between Brafman and the District Attorney’s office stipulating that the ex-mogul’s bond be set at $10 million, he required to wear a GPS monitoring system and could only travel between and New York and Connecticut.
The arrest comes after months of investigation by New York prosecutors into multiple allegations of sexual assault dating back to 2004. The charges filed Friday stem from incidents involving two separate women that allegedly took place in 2004 and 2013, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.
A source told CNN that the criminal sex act charge stems from a case involving Lucia Evans, a once-aspiring actress who claims that Weinstein forced him to perform oral sex on him in his Tribeca office.
Evans spoke out about the alleged incident in New Yorker magazine in fall of 2017.
The alleged victim in the rape case remains anonymous, and further details of that investigation are unknown.
A grand jury continues to hear testimony in the state’s case and more charges are expected.
Weinstein’s arraignment comes after dozens of women came forward following 2017 reports in the New York Times and New Yorker. Those women – and Bill Cosby’s accusers — gave courage to numerous others to come forward alleging sexual harassment and abuse, including men alleging harassment by other men, including actor Kevin Spacey.
Many of the accusations against Weinstein have come from high-profile actresses with whom he worked, including Rose McGowan, one of the first to come forward.
“I, and so many of Harvey Weinstein’s survivors, had given up hope that our rapist would be held accountable by law. McGowan said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “Twenty years ago, I swore that I would right this wrong. Today we are one step closer to justice.”
Weinstein is also under investigation for alleged sex crimes in Los Angeles and London, and the Wall Street Journal has reported that Federal prosecutors in New York have also begun a sex crimes investigation involving the former studio head, who has been accused of rape, assault and other sexual misconduct.
Weinstein has said through a representative that he sought treatment after the accusations, and that he “unequivocally denies” any allegations of non-consensual sex.
Developments in the Weinstein case come on the heels of allegations by eight women of sexual misconduct by actor Morgan Freeman that took place on movie sets, during film promotions and at Revelations Entertainment, the actor’s production company.
These accusations include stories that the 80-year-old Freeman looked at them in a sexual way and made comments with “sexual undertones” about their bodies or clothing.
One of the allegations comes from a woman who said the actor had “repeatedly tried to lift her skirt,” and stopped only because a costar had said for him to “knock it off.” Another accuser claims she was the victim of “repeated unwanted touching” while working with Freeman on a recent film.
The eight women’s stories are supported by eight witnesses who have also come forward; however, due to fears of repercussions in their work, only one of these accusers – CNN reporter Chloe Melas – was willing to go public with their identity.
Melas says her encounter with Freeman took place during a press junket last year for the film “Going in Style.” She claims that he continued to hold her hand after shaking it, looked at her in an obviously sexual way and made various sexually provocative comments. She was pregnant at the time, and the actor repeatedly said that he “wished he was there” when it had happened, she said. Melas later reported the encounter to her supervisor at CNN.
In a statement released Thursday, Freeman apologized for his behavior, saying, “Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
In the wake of these revelations, SAG-AFTRA said on Thursday that it is reviewing the possibility of “corrective actions” in relation Freeman’s lifetime achievement award, which was presented to the Oscar-winning actor at the SAG Awards ceremony in January.
The actor’s union statement reads: “These are compelling and devastating allegations which are absolutely contrary to all the steps that we are taking to [ensure] a safe work environment for the professionals in this industry. Any accused person has the right to due process, but it is our starting point to believe the courageous voices who come forward to report incidents of harassment.”
In February, the union adopted a new code of conduct, which prohibits “unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and which creates a hostile, offensive or intimidating work environment.” They have also created guidelines for locations in which industry meetings should take place, meant to avoid “high-risk locations” such as hotel rooms. Many of the allegations that have emerged from the #MeToo movement stem from incidents that took place in these environments.
The actions of SAG-AFTRA, along with today’s arrest of Weinstein, can be seen as a victory for the #MeToo movement, which has spurred a heightened awareness of sexual misconduct not only behind the scenes in Hollywood, but within other workplaces as well. The movement has given voice to hundreds of women and men who have been victims of harassment and worse at the hands of employers and others who have abused their positions of power to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior. The resulting scrutiny has led to the downfall of dozens of powerful figures within the entertainment industry, from executives like Weinstein to news personalities like Matt Lauer and actors like Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor.
Last year’s wave of sexual misconduct stories brought viral attention to the decade-old #MeToo movement – which began (without the hashtag) in 2006, when social activist Tarana Burke used the phrase in support of a grassroots campaign to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who have experienced sexual abuse. This awareness reached its height during the early 2018 awards season – when many ceremonies, including the SAG presentation, actively sought to project solidarity with the movement.
This week’s events show that it remains relevant. The movement continues to empower women and men to come forward with their stories of unwanted sexual treatment from people who hold power over them in their work places; its prominence in the public eye has resulted in growing pressure on industry and law enforcement to take actions against those who perpetrate such behavior, and to eliminate the culture of silence that allows it to exist.
Friday’s arrest is evidence that it’s working, and the revelations about Freeman show that the #MeToo story is not going away.