Film producer Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and a criminal sexual act, the United States media reported on Tuesday. He appeared at a court in New York a week after a grand jury indictment.
Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 70 women, surrendered at a police station in New York on May 25. The indictment is in the first case that surfaced from several allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Weinstein has been charged with first and third degree rape, and a criminal sexual act in the first degree. He faces between five and 25 years in prison if proved guilty of the most serious crimes.
Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman said the producer was “holding up reasonably well”, CNN reported. “As terrible a crime as rape is, it is equally reprehensible to be falsely accused of rape, and since Mr Weinstein has denied these allegations, that is where we are.”
“Mr Weinstein today is presumed innocent,” The Guardian quoted Brafman as adding.“He has denied these charges and intends to fight them. These cases have created a firestorm of publicity.”
He added: “My job is to defend specific allegations of sexual misconduct, not the issue of the Hollywood casting couch over the last 30 or 100 years.” He, however, soon apologised for using the term “casting couch”, and said he would never use it again.
On February 12, the state of New York sued the producer and his former company for years of sexual harassment and misconduct with employees. After a four-month investigation into the allegations, former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said employees of The Weinstein Company had faced “pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination”.
The allegations of sexual assault were first reported by The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017, which led to the #MeToo and Times Up movements. The movements seek to expose sexual harassment and assault, especially at workplace.
Several people from within the American film industry and outside accused actors and directors such as Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner, Geoffrey Rush, Ryan Seacrest, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman of harassment after the allegations against Weinstein became public.