December 26, 2019 | News | No Comments
More than two years after the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments launched sexual assault investigations into Harvey Weinstein, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has escalated its review into the disgraced filmmaker and is considering filing criminal charges against him, law enforcement sources said.
In all, eight cases are under review by the district attorney’s office, a spokesperson for the agency said. Four of the cases are from the Los Angeles Police Department and four are from the Beverly Hills Police Department, sources said.
The office could act in the new year, before Manhattan prosecutors complete their criminal trial of the once high-flying movie producer, set to begin in January, said people familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to comment.
Sources have confirmed to The Times that the district attorney’s sex crimes division has intensified contact with at least two accusers and has also broadened its review to include several other women across the country who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
This stepped-up investigation could open up a second plank of prosecution for the embattled mogul, who faces four criminal sex crimes charges involving three women in New York.
A spokesperson for Weinstein declined to comment. The former film producer has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Two of the key cases prosecutors are weighing involved separate alleged sexual assaults that occurred at two hotels during the same week in February 2013.
In October 2017, Los Angeles Police Capt. Billy Hayes confirmed that the department had opened an investigation into Weinstein after an Italian model-actress filed a report, alleging that Weinstein raped her at the Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel in 2013.
This was the first case related to Weinstein to be reported in Southern California.
The actress said she met and briefly spoke with the producer during the Los Angeles Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest that year, after which he “bullied” his way into her hotel room.
The actress described the alleged incident in an earlier interview with The Times. “Once inside, he asked me questions about myself, but soon became very aggressive and demanding and kept asking to see me naked.” She said that she showed him pictures of her children as she cried and begged him to go away. “He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do,” she said, saying that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him. “He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me.”
According to law enforcement sources, the actress did not immediately report the alleged incident. But she did tell three people what happened to her, including her priest. Investigators traveled to Italy, where she lived at the time of the alleged assault, and independently verified their accounts.
Since the allegation surfaced, Weinstein’s attorneys have vigorously denied that he was at Mr. C Beverly Hills that night. He has also denied ever being alone with the accuser.
“My client is fully cooperating with law enforcement and the D.A.’s office,” said David Ring, the attorney for the Italian actress. “She will appear and tell the jury how Weinstein raped her in a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2013. … It will be difficult and stressful for her, but she knows it must occur in order to convict Weinstein, who continues to buy time with delaying tactics.”
A second woman who alleges that Weinstein assaulted her on Feb. 19, 2013 — several hours before the Italian actress alleged she was raped, also in Beverly Hills — may testify in the New York trial as a witness to his prior behavior.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, this second victim, who is described in New York court documents, contacted the New York Police Department about a separate incident of sexual assault involving Weinstein at a Beverly Hills hotel.
The NYPD referred the case to Beverly Hills police for investigation, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter candidly.
Beverly Hills police have declined to make public any details of their investigations into Weinstein.
The L.A. County district attorney’s sex crimes unit has ramped up its inquiry into allegations of sexual assault allegations in other jurisdictions against Weinstein in recent months, sources told The Times.
Aaron Filler, the attorney representing actress Paz de la Huerta in a civil suit against Weinstein for sexual battery, said that he received a telephone call from Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Thompson, head of the sex crimes unit, about a month ago, requesting an interview with his client.
De la Huerta alleges that Weinstein raped her twice in her New York apartment in December 2010.
Filler said that Thompson told him that L.A. was starting its own prosecution of Weinstein.
“My impression was that they are commencing a wide-ranging criminal investigation and at this point are reaching out to every victim they can identify and try and do telephone interviews around the country,” Thompson said. “They have more leeway to reach out to more victims in more jurisdictions and bring them into a courtroom than in New York.”
Unlike New York, California law allows for “me too” evidence of sexual harassment and discrimination described by other employees to be presented at trial. In other words, prosecutors here could have multiple accusers who are not plaintiffs testify against Weinstein.
In addition to the New York criminal case, there is a class-action suit and at least 18 women with individual suits against Weinstein, alleging sexual misconduct, assault or harassment.
According to Filler, De la Huerta, who lives in New York, had a brief telephone conversation with Thompson but would prefer to meet with him in person. To date, they have not scheduled a meeting.
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An attorney representing an accuser in her suit against Weinstein, alleging that the producer raped her, said that he also received a request from Thompson to talk with his client within the last month.
Although his client declined to speak with Thompson, saying the civil suit has “put her through the wringer,” the attorney characterized his conversation with the assistant district attorney saying, “It sounded like they are moving forward.”
In the two years since the New York Times and the New Yorker first detailed decades of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein, criminal investigations have opened in Los Angeles, London and New York. However, only the New York district attorney’s office has pursued criminal charges against the fallen movie mogul.
Two years ago, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey formed a special task force dedicated to investigating allegations of sexual assault roiling Hollywood. She assigned a group of veteran sex crimes prosecutors to “ensure a uniformed approach to the legal review and possible prosecution of any case that meets both the legal and factual standards for criminal prosecution.”
To date, the task force has yet to charge any of the more than two dozen men subject to investigations by law enforcement. Many of those allegations were too old to prosecute and in other cases there was insufficient evidence; they include allegations involving the actors Steven Seagal and Kevin Spacey.
Lacey, who is running for a third term as district attorney, faces a slew of challengers and renewed pressure for declining to prosecute several high-profile sex abuse cases.
Meanwhile, Weinstein’s legal woes continue to mount. A former teen model, Kaja Sokola, filed a lawsuit last week against the producer under the Child Victims Act, alleging the former filmmaker sexually assaulted her at his New York City apartment in 2002 when she was 16.
Sokola was initially part of a federal class-action suit filed in December 2017 against the filmmaker. Weinstein and his former film studio’s board have reached a controversial $47-million settlement with several women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, according to attorneys involved in the negotiations.
About $25 million will be allocated to the accusers, $7.3 million to unsecured creditors and former Weinstein Co. employees and about $12.2 million will be earmarked to pay legal fees of the studio’s directors and officers, according to a copy of the settlement term sheet obtained by The Times. The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2018.
Weinstein, the producer behind such Oscar-winning hits as “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and “The King’s Speech,” was fired from his company in October 2017 after dozens of women accused him of sexual misconduct.
Last week, Weinstein was widely criticized for calling himself “the forgotten man” in an interview with the New York Post and citing how many women he helped during his career. The comments triggered a swift backlash, including a formal statement signed by 23 of his accusers.