The former Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein's scandal has finally come to an end of February 24 when he was convicted of two charges by the New York jury. The scandal surrounding the one-time movie mogul's scandal had erupted back in 2017 with an article published in The New York Times. Since the first set of women who claimed to have been sexually harassed by Weinstein, more than 80 women, actresses, A-list stars, filmmakers, models massage therapists and others have accused the former Hollywood producer of assault and/or rape marking the start of #MeToo movement.
Considered as the biggest force behind the '#MeToo era', Weinstein was exposed on October 5, 2017, by the article which featured numerous women who went on-the-record to accuse Weinstein over a period of nearly three decades. This day is also most essential to spark the grand movement with actors Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan being among the highest-profile accusers.
It was during this time when another important revelation was made stating that Weinstein had signed non-disclosure agreements in exchange for money with at least eight women in order to silence them. Following the increasing accusations, Weinstein had then released a statement that he “sincerely apologises” for his behaviour but his lawyer claimed that most allegations were false. However, days later, the board of The Weinstein Company which was founded by Harvey along with his brother, Bob Weinstein, ousted him.
On October 10, same year filmmaker Asia Argento told The New Yorker that she was raped by Weinstein in 1997. Two other women also accused him of sexual assault. In addendum to that, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Rosanna Arquette also joined the list of women who accused Weinstein of harassment. However, Weinstein's lawyer said that Weinstein has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex. It was the same day when Weinstein's wife, British fashion designer Georgina Chapman and described his behaviour as “unforgivable”.
In the same month on 2017, the board of governors of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, the institution that awards the Oscars expelled Weinstein whose films had earned dozens of Oscars over the course of many years. With every passing week, there were more allegations against Weinstein either on social media or television cameras. Other celebrities who were accused included Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner.
With the increasing momentum in the Hollywood industry, thousands of women identified themselves as victims of sexual assault. This was followed by a call to action by actor Alyssa Milano in passed a suggestion from a friend in the wake of Weinstein's fall. She said every woman who faced sexual assault or harassment should post “me too” to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”. It was then a matter of a few days when the hashtag started trending on Twitter and Facebook. Other prominent names like Lady Gaga, Monica Lewinsky and Rosario Dawson identified themselves as a victim.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Harvey Weinstein handed himself to police at TriBeCa station near his home in Manhattan for arrest in the morning of May 25, 2018. He was charged with rape and sexual assault based on the allegations made by Lucia Evans and Jessica Mann. Neither of the women was named in the indictment but it was Evans who confirmed that she was pressing the charges. However, after appearing in front of the court, Weinstein was freed on a $1 million bail on the condition that he would remain in New York and Connecticut and wear an electronic ankle tag. James Burke was assigned as the judge for the case while the former Hollywood producer was represented by New York lawyer Benjamin Brafman.
After Weinstein's lawyers failed to convince Burke to throw the entire case out, Brafman quit the case. The lawyer who had previously represented Dominique Strauss-Khan and Jay-Z, reportedly said that Weinstein used to send him dozens of emails in a day and visits his office unannounced. Before this, in late 2018, the charges brought by Evans were dismissed and prosecutors had said that they were not confident could stand a chance in the court.
Weinstein was granted permission to change his legal team again after Florida defence lawyer Jose Baez and Harvard University law professor Ronald Sullivan both announced to leave the case. In a letter to the judge, Baez reportedly said that “Weinstein has engaged in behaviour that makes this representation unreasonably difficult”. This is when Weinstein retained New York-based lawyer, Arthur Aidala and Chicago-based Donna Rotunno to lead the defence team.
On December 11, 2019, Weinstein's legal team had announced that they have agreed on a tentative $25 million settlement with dozens of women who had filed a civil lawsuit against him. However, since the agreement also included dropping of the claims against Weinstein, several women immediately said that they could not accept the settlement the team was offering.
It was on January 6, 2020, when the trial against Weinstein had begun. Because of the car crash that had occurred in August, he underwent back surgery. Along with reporters, actors Rose McGowan and Patricia Arquette held a press conference while wearing red as a sign of protest. In the following days, according to media reports, more than 600 people were summoned for jury duty. However, half of them had turned.
The same day, prosecutors in Los Angeles announced that they will file criminal charges against him based on the allegations made by women who claimed that they were attacked by Weinstein in consecutive nights in February 2013.
Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape but remain acquitted of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges. The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree. This marked the partial victory for the #MeToo movement that considered it a huge moment. Weinstein who attended the entire trial on the walker was then headed to prison handcuffed and shielded by police officers. Both women, who were behind starting the movement back in 2017 also hailed the conviction.
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