Harvey Weinstein is still awaiting a criminal trial in New York. In the meantime, the New York Times reports that he and former board members of the Weinstein Company have reached a tentative $44 million settlement with numerous women who have accused the Hollywood mogul of sexual misconduct.
In New York, Weinstein faces criminal charges stemming from the allegations by two women who accuse him of sexual violence. Significantly more women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, and considerably more women than that have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment — which, as the Times notes, “is a civil violation, not a criminal one.”
Lawsuits are the primary means by which many of Weinstein’s alleged victims can achieve some form of justice. “So the details of any settlement — such as whether it includes an admission of wrongdoing by Mr. Weinstein — would carry significant symbolism.”
As the Times reports, the $44 million settlement is “less than half of the $90 million that was initially discussed as a victims’ fund” last year, in a deal between the then-New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and an investor group that was pursuing the purchase of Weinstein Company assets. That deal collapsed in March of last year, two months before the attorney general was forced to resign in his own sexual misconduct scandal.
Weinstein is not personally responsible for paying the $44 million. Should the current agreement hold, that sum would be covered by insurance policies.
From the Times:
Under the proposed terms of the new deal, about $30 million would go to a pool of plaintiffs that includes alleged victims, creditors of Mr. Weinstein’s former studio and some former employees, according to the people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agreement was private. The balance would go to legal fees for associates of Mr. Weinstein, including board members named as defendants in lawsuits…
The Weinstein Company is seeking to liquidate. In a recent bankruptcy filing, lawyers for the studio said the efforts to resolve legal claims by some of the women had stalled in recent months, and put additional strain on its dwindling resources.
Before October 2016, when his name became pop cultural shorthand for “serial sexual predator,” Weinstein was among the most powerful, influential producers in Hollywood. For decades, he reigned as a larger-than-life mover-and-shaker in the entertainment industry. He is the architect of what the public now knows as the awards season campaign, responsible for the relentless For Your Consideration advertisements, the behind-the-scenes strong-arming, the full-court-press of it all. If you watched the Oscars at any point from 1990 to 2016, you heard someone say his name at the podium.
His abuses were euphemized as typical industry practices — who hadn’t heard of the casting couch? Now, this “tradition” is being reevaluated as what it has always likely been: a violent abuse of power, and a sex crime. In one of the many cases against Weinstein, a judge has ruled that a “casting couch” audition is tantamount to sex trafficking.
Weinstein’s downfall marked the beginning of the modern #MeToo movement, a nationwide reckoning around sexual violence and abuses of power in the entertainment industry and far beyond it.
Several characters involved in the Weinstein story are at the center of their own misconduct vortexes. There’s Schneiderman, who was still New York attorney general when the Weinstein story broke. After a four-month investigation, Schneiderman’s office filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Weinstein Company, claiming TWC violated civil and human rights, as well as business laws, and failed to protect its employees from Weinstein’s “unrelenting sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination.”
A few months later, at the direction of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Schneiderman started an investigation into the past handling of criminal complaints against Weinstein by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., and the NYPD. But five days after that investigation began, The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Meyer reported that Schneiderman was himself the subject of sexual violence allegations. Four women accused Schneiderman of physical abuse — including non-consensual choking during sex. Schneiderman resigned just three hours after the story was published.
As for Vance: Back in 2015, he declined to pursue charges against Weinstein — even though the NYPD had Weinstein’s confession on tape. Vance was the recipient of some conveniently-timed campaign donations from attorneys in Weinstein’s employ.
Months after dropping the case against Weinstein, Vance accepted a $10,000 political donation from David Boies, an attorney who worked with private investigation organization Black Cube on Weinstein’s behalf to spy on women who would potentially accuse Weinstein of sexual violence, and to work to suppress the publication of stories about Weinstein’s misconduct — including the story that ultimately ran in the New York Times. (The Times also employed Boies’ firm’s legal services; once the New Yorker broke that Boies was working for Weinstein at the same time his firm was working for the Times, which was doing its own investigation into Weinstein’s pattern of sexual predation, they fired him.)
Vance also accepted campaign donations from Elkan Abramowitz, Weinstein’s former defense attorney who, as the New York Post put it, “helped Weinstein skate on sexual assault charges in 2015.”
Last March, the Time’s Up Legal Foundation called for Cuomo’s office to investigate Vance and his office for mishandling the Weinstein case. Cuomo called on Schneiderman to review Vance’s conduct regarding Weinstein. Schneiderman resigned shortly thereafter, and the investigation is ongoing.
Cuomo has also been the recipient of campaign donations from Weinstein-employed attorneys. Last August, Capital & Main reported that Cuomo ordered his attorney general’s office to stop its probe into the alleged mishandling of the Weinstein case only six days after David Boies’ law firm donated $25,000 to Cuomo’s reelection campaign. “In all, Boies and his law firm have given Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaigns more than $245,000 since 2009.”
Weinstein’s criminal trial is expected to begin on Sept. 9. He has pleaded not guilty, denied all the allegations against him, and maintains that any sexual contact between him and his accusers was consensual. (Weinstein is also the subject of criminal investigations in the U.K., where 11 women have reported 16 separate alleged sexual assaults by him to the London police.) In New York, he is charged with forcibly performing oral sex on a female production assistant in 2006 and of raping a woman in a hotel room in 2013. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison.