What is Harvey Weinstein charged with – and what happens next?

The movie mogul could spent up to 25 years in prison, and officials have said they may add to the charges

The charges against Harvey Weinstein

The disgraced movie mogul is charged with rape, a criminal sex act, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct for cases involving two women, according to the New York police department.

If convicted of a rape or a criminal sexual act – the charge that refers to allegedly forcing Lucia Evans to perform oral sex on him – the disgraced movie mogul could spend up to 25 years in prison, officials said. The rape complaint refers to an unidentified woman who accuses Weinstein of raping her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.

Weinstein’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, has said in court paperwork that the allegations that Weinstein forced himself on women were “entirely without merit” and that he never knowingly broke the law.

Why it took so long

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing around the world. But many of the encounters that allegedly involve criminal sexual acts are too old to be actionable.

The statute of limitations for rape and certain other sex crimes in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.

Therefore prosecutors were able to bring a case based on accusations leveled by actor Lucia Evans, who spoke to the New Yorker last year, that Weinstein had forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004.

Why New York?

There are open criminal investigations into Weinstein’s conduct in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and London, and reports of probable coordination at some level between detectives. But Weinstein’s business was based in New York and many of his accusers said the incidents took place at Weinstein’s Tribeca headquarters or in the surrounding area. Friday’s charges relate to incidents in Manhattan. Weinstein ultimately turned himself in at the NYPD first precinct, closest to his former office above the Tribeca Grill restaurant, where he was a fixture.

Impediments to action

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, has been under enormous pressure to bring a criminal case against Weinstein, after deciding not to file charges in an earlier groping case. Vance has been accused of accepting re-election campaign contributions from lawyers with clients connected to cases under his office’s purview.

In March, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, took the step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model.

However, that investigation was itself complicated when the state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, was himself accused of non-consensual physical violence and was forced to resign.

Ultimately, before Weinstein could be charged, the case was put before a grand jury, a special body in the US justice system that comprises citizen jurors preliminarily weighing evidence and probable cause behind closed doors, before any trial. The grand jury decided to indict Weinstein.

Will Weinstein face further criminal charges?

New York officials have said they may add to the charges against Weinstein, including charges based on accusations from at least one as yet unidentified woman.

Authorities in California and London also are investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there date to the 1980s.

One of Weinstein’s most vocal accusers, the actor Rose McGowan, told the Associated Press news agency on Thursday that she was relieved the producer was finally being charged.

“I still have very guarded hopes,” McGowan said. “The justice system has been something very elusive. I hope in this case it works. Because it’s all true. None of this was consensual.”


Edward Helmore in New York

The GuardianTramp

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