“Today, Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell.”
The disgraced film mogul was charged with rape, a criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct on Friday, after he surrendered to authorities in New York.
After turning himself in, Weinstein was arrested and taken to Manhattan Criminal Court to be arraigned. After a short court appearance, he was released on a pre-arranged bail package worth $1million (£750,000). He gave up his passport and agreed not to travel beyond New York and Connecticut, and is also required to wear a monitoring device.
The producer’s lawyer, Benjamin Branfman, said that his client would plead not guilty to the charges against him. “We believe that [the charges] are constitutionally flawed,” he told reporters outside the court. “We believe that they are not factually supported by the evidence, and we believe that at the end of the process Mr Weinstein will be exonerated.”
It is the first criminal case to be brought against Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women. Last autumn, allegations of his systematic sexual abuse served as the catalyst for the global #MeToo movement, prompting millions of women around the world to share their own stories sexual harassment and assault.
As the news broke that Weinstein was to turn himself in, #MeToo activists and journalists who reported on his conduct spoke out about their feelings about the arrest.
Rose McGowan has been one of Weinstein’s most prominent accusers ever since she came forward last autumn, alleging that he raped her in the Nineties.
Writing on Instagram, the actress said: “I, and so many of Harvey Weinstein’s survivors, had given up hope that our rapist would be accountable by law. Twenty years ago, I swore that I would write this wrong.”
“Today we are one step closer to justice,” McGowan continued. “We were young women who were assaulted by Weinstein and later terrorized by his vast network of complicity. I stand with my fellow survivors. May his arrest give hope to all victims and survivors everywhere that are telling their truths.”
Tarana Burke, the anti-sexual violence campaigner who created the Me Too campaign in 1997, told Variety that Weinstein’s arrest would move the allegations against him “from the court of public opinion into an actual courtroom.
“That is super cathartic for a bunch of the survivors, or even survivors who are not necessarily victimized by him,” she said.
“For those people for whom criminal justice is how they want to seek justice, to see it actually happen, I think is a big deal. We might be looking at a shift in the way cases of sexual violence are actually dealt with.”
Asia Argento is another actress who alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in the Nineties. On Twitter, she wrote: “Today, Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell. We, the women, finally have real hope for justice.”
Argento also shared a tweet by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, in which he quoted her as saying: ““After decades of abusing women with impunity, finally, the beginning of the end of Harvey Weinstein’s reign of terror. I wish I could say this brings me peace. Unfortunately, the damage he has done to women can never be undone. He belongs in prison.”
Jodi Kantor, an investigative journalist for The New York Times who co-authored the first report on the allegations against Weinstein, shared the news of his imminent arrest alongside threatening quotes attributed to the producer.
“‘I’m Harvey Weinstein, you know what I can do.’ Not anymore,” she wrote.
Kantor, who attended Weinstein’s appearance in court, also posted live updates throughout the morning.
The charges against Weinstein refer to two incidents involving two separate women in 2013 and 2004. The alleged victim in the rape case has not been publicly identified.
The criminal sex act charge is based on allegations by former actress Lucia Evans, who says that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at what she had believed would be a casting meeting at Miramax’s offices in Manhattan. According to a police source, Evans is “a highly credible witness with corroborating evidence”.
In a new interview with The New Yorker, Evans confirmed she was pressing charges against Weinstein, adding that authorities told her “Harvey would walk” if she declined to give evidence.
“At a certain point, you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind,” she said.
“I know how this has changed my life for the worse. How he took away my self-esteem and personal power. And knowing I can take it back, and stop him from doing that to another woman, I couldn’t let that go.”
Until this week, it remained unclear whether Weinstein would ever face criminal charges for his alleged behaviour. Many of the women who have accused him of sexually assaulting or raping them are citing alleged crimes that happened decades ago, making them impossible to prosecute under the statute of limitations in many US states.
Authorities in Los Angeles and London are also investigating assault allegations against Weinstein. There is no statute of limitations on rape cases in the UK, and some of the allegations currently being investigated in London date back to the Eighties.
Main image: Getty Images