The New York state attorney general on Sunday filed a civil rights lawsuit against former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, his company and brother after an investigation uncovered “new and egregious” sexual misconduct.
The case lays out new alleged incidences of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and repeated violations of New York law by company officials that endangered employees.
The lawsuit charges that company executives repeatedly failed to protect employees from what it termed Weinstein’s “unrelenting sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination.”
The lawsuit comes after a four-month investigation, the attorney general’s office said in a news release.
Weinstein was fired by The Weinstein Company in October following newspaper reports on allegations of sexual assault and harassment expressed by dozens of women, including several actresses.
“As alleged in our complaint, The Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
Ben Brafman, Weinstein’s attorney, said if Schneiderman conducted a fair investigation it would demonstrate that many of the allegations against Weinstein are without merit.
“While Mr Weinstein’s behaviour was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality,” Brafman said in a statement emailed to dpa.
Brafman said Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was “zero discrimination” at his companies.
“If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr Weinstein will embrace the investigation,” Brafman said. “If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself.”
Weinstein has denied the allegations through a spokeswoman who previously confirmed to dpa that Weinstein is undergoing therapy.
The lawsuit put a 500-million-dollar deal to sell Weinstein’s studio into jeopardy, the Los Angeles Times reported. A deal was expected to be signed Sunday.
Schneiderman said any sale must ensure that victims will be compensated and that employees will be protected going forward. It also must ensure that “neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched.”
Among the new allegations is one that Weinstein threatened to kill employees, telling several employees “‘I will kill you,’ ‘I will kill your family,’ and ‘You don’t know what I can do,’ or words to that effect,” according to the attorney general.
He told them he had connections to powerful people who “could take care of problems.”
He also allegedly employed women whose primary job was to act as his “wing women,” accompanying him to events and facilitating his sexual conquests, the attorney general’s news release said.
A second group of predominantly female employees is alleged to have served as his assistants and was compelled to take “various steps to further [Weinstein’s] regular sexual activity,” the release said.
A third group of also predominantly female executives allegedly was also forced to facilitate Weinstein’s sexual conquests, Schneiderman’s lawsuit alleges. Though their responsibilities were in film production, Weinstein “required them to meet with prospective sexual conquests in order to facilitate [his] sexual activity,” the attorney general said.
They also were forced to follow through on Weinstein’s promise of employment opportunities to women who met with his favour, which the lawsuit said “demeaned and humiliated” them.
A cascade of similar allegations against men in similar high-power positions followed revelations about Weinstein’s alleged behaviour.
The allegations against Weinstein also sparked the #MeToo movement, which involves people across the entertainment industry and other sectors voicing allegations of sexual harassment, coercion and assault.