Nearly eight months after Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lupita Nyong’o and dozens of other women publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and sexual assault, New York City police arrested the Hollywood producer on charges that he raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex on him.
Weinstein, 66, turned himself in Friday morning at New York’s First Precinct, just blocks from his old office in TriBeCa where he allegedly committed at least one of his crimes. He was charged with first-degree rape and third-degree rape in one case and first-degree criminal sex act in the second case. Weinstein emerged from the precinct in handcuffs—led pointedly by a female detective.
For Weinstein, a prolific producer who has racked up more than 81 Oscar wins, it was an epic fall. His revelation as a serial predator, after years of rumors in Hollywood and beyond, kickstarted the #MeToo movement and ushered in the current era of reckoning around sexual abuse and assault in Hollywood and beyond. But now he is the first major celebrity exposed by the #MeToo movement to be arrested for a crime, something his many accusers never thought they would see.
The news elicited an emotional outpouring on social media. “I, and so many of Harvey Weinstein’s survivors, had given up hope that our rapist would be held accountable by law,” Rose McGowan wrote in an Instagram post, “Today we are one step closer to justice.” For many, that one step feels like a major shift.
Asia Argento, who recently delivered a moving speech at Cannes about being raped by Weinstein at the festival, tweeted, simply, “Boom.”
Weinstein’s arrest arrives at a moment when many of those named in the #MeToo movement have retreated into the shadows. Though Bill Cosby, who has been accused of rape by dozens of women, was finally convicted in April, he likely won’t go to prison anytime soon. His lawyers plan to appeal his case.
For decades, Weinstein allegedly used a private team of investigators and lawyers to avoid the criminal justice system. But on Friday, he entered the courtroom just like any other man accused of a crime. What comes next could take time: As we’ve seen with the Cosby case, trials and appeals can drag on for years.
Outside the courtroom, Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, maintained that any sexual activity Weinstein engaged in was consensual and said he believed his client will be exonerated. “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood,” he said.
Authorities have not publicly identified the victim in Weinstein’s rape case, but marketing consultant and former aspiring actor Lucia Evans confirmed to The New Yorker that she is the other victim. In October, she told The New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex in his New York office during what she believed would be a casting meeting. “I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,” she said.
Weinstein is still under investigation in Los Angeles and London. Federal investigators are also looking into possible violation of stalking laws and financial crimes. An investigative grand jury will examine both Weinstein’s alleged sex crimes and whether the producer committed any financial crimes as he paid women to stay silent and possibly paid his employees to identify victims for him and cover his tracks after the crime.
New York police say that they hope victims will continue to come forward as the state’s statute of limitations bars them from pursuing many of the cases already made public. However, the accusations made by Evans and the unnamed woman involved forcible compulsion and therefore were not subject to a statute of limitations under a New York law changed in 2001. Police have also said that prosecutors could call those accusers whose cases fall outside of the statute of limitations in court to establish a pattern of bad behavior, just as the prosecutors did in Bill Cosby’s recent trial for sexual assault.
Until recently, Weinstein boasted that he could ruin any actor or assistant’s career with just one phone call. Judd, one of the original accusers, is currently suing Weinstein for career damage, accusing the producer of blocking her casting in the Lord of the Rings franchise after she rejected his advances. He had ties outside Hollywood, too, as a major Democratic political donor.
According to actors, former assistants and co-workers, Weinstein allegedly abused his power to assault women in the industry for decades. They say he would wield a potent combination of non-disclosure agreements, hush money and threats to a person’s future career to keep his victims silent, but his behavior was an open secret in Hollywood. Weinstein avoided arrest for a groping charge just three years ago.
But Weinstein’s defenses finally fell when over 70 women came forward with similar stories of Weinstein rescheduling meetings or casting calls to take place in his hotel room. Many said his assistants suddenly disappear, at which point Weinstein would allegedly insist upon a massage “as part of an audition” or, they claim, encourage the actor to shower with him. Again and again, women would share stories of Weinstein in a robe, exposed, allegedly threatening their careers as they tried to edge out of the hotel room.
When the New York Times first published the allegations against Weinstein, he issued an apology, and said he would take a leave of absence to work with his therapist. But the same day, he lashed out: His lawyer told The Hollywood Reporter that the producer planned to sue the Times. Three days later, Weinstein was sacked from the board of his company as more women came forward with stories of harassment and assault. While his company filed for bankruptcy, Weinstein retreated to a luxe rehab center in Arizona called the Meadows which charges $58,000 for 45 days of treatment and offers “expressive arts” and equine therapy.
Weinstein had at least one previous brush with the law. Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. recently faced criticism for deciding not to prosecute Weinstein for the groping accusations made by Italian model Ambra Battilana in 2015. He has maintained that the office did not have enough to prosecute.
Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also filed a civil rights lawsuit against Weinstein and his former company in February. In the suit, he wrote that the producer employed a “group of female employees whose primary job it was to accompany [Weinstein] to events and to facilitate [his] sexual conquests.” This spring, Schneiderman began investigating whether Vance Jr. mishandled earlier accusations of assault against the producer. That was before Schneiderman himself was accused of sexual assault by four women. Schneiderman has said he “strongly contests” the allegations. He has since resigned his post.
Meanwhile, a spate of stories suggest that other famous men accused of harassment or worse are considering “comebacks”: Comedians have speculated how Louis C.K. could make a comeback through low-key appearances at comedy clubs. Chef Mario Batali is exploring his second act even as he is being investigated for sexual assault, and the last remaining piece of his restaurant empire cut ties from him; Charlie Rose was mulling a show in which he interviews other men taken down by #MeToo. Weinstein’s walk to New York’s first precinct, however, may serve as a reminder that legal consequences could follow social ostracization. He may just be the first of many men to turn themselves into the police.
If Harvey is convicted, he could go to prison. He almost certainly will be court mandated to go to sex offender therapy—not the kind where patients meditate next to a pool, but the kind where offenders are required to meet with therapists and other men convicted of sex crimes at least once a week. There, they will all have to sit in a circle, no matter how much money they have or where they came from, and talk about why they did what they did.