Three women accuse producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault in federal suit

Harvey Weinstein was accused by the three women of using his power as a movie producer to lure them into hotel rooms where he sexually assaulted them.
Harvey Weinstein was accused by the three women of using his power as a movie producer to lure them into hotel rooms where he sexually assaulted them. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Harvey Weinstein's legal problems multiplied on Friday (June 1) as three women filed a lawsuit in federal court, accusing him of using his power as a movie producer to lure them into hotel rooms where he sexually assaulted them.

One of the women, Melissa Thompson, accused Weinstein of raping her in a room at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in September 2011 as she was trying to demonstrate an online marketing tool.

This week a Manhattan grand jury indicted Weinstein, 66, on charges he forced an aspiring actress to perform oral sex on him during a meeting at his office in 2004 and that he raped a woman at the Doubletree Hotel on Lexington Avenue in 2013. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, maintains the encounters with both women were consensual.

Danny Frost, a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney's office, declined to comment on whether investigators were aware of or had looked into Thompson's accusation.

In the lawsuit filed on Friday in the US District Court in Manhattan, Thompson said she first talked to Weinstein about her digital marketing platform at a meeting in his office at 375 Greenwich St. on Sept. 29, 2011.

He asked if he "was allowed to flirt" with her, then caressed her leg and put his hand up her skirt as she was trying to demonstrate the product, the suit said. She moved away from him, but continued her sales pitch.

Weinstein then said he had to edit a film and asked her to meet him for a drink at 5.30pm at the Tribeca Grand to continue the conversation. At the hotel, he led her to a room, where, she said, a few minutes later he forced her onto a bed and raped her.

"Thompson was fighting back, but could not outmuscle him," the lawsuit said.

The other plaintiffs in the class-action suit are both actresses: Caitlin Dulany and Larissa Gomes.

Dulany accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her in a room at the Hotel du Cap in Cannes, France, in 1996. Gomes said Weinstein invited her to his room at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto in 2000, ostensibly to talk about parts for her, then groped her breasts and propositioned her, saying other actresses "had no problem" having sex with him. She fled the room.

The New York Times does not normally publish the names of victims of sex crimes. Elizabeth A. Fegan, the lawyer for the three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said they had consented to their names being published.

Their allegations follow a now-familiar script. More than 80 women, some of them famous actresses, have come forward in the last seven months to accuse Weinstein of sexually harassing or assaulting them in hotel rooms and his offices, often during what he had said would be business meetings about films.

Once one of Hollywood's most successful producers, Weinstein has been turned by these accusations into a symbol of sexual harassment and the catalyst for the #MeToo movement.

The lawsuit claims Weinstein and others at the film company Miramax, and later The Weinstein Co., operated what amounted to a criminal organisation - as defined under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act - to "facilitate and conceal his pattern of unwanted sexual conduct."

The three women named in the suit are seeking class-action status to sue on behalf of all women to whom Weinstein made unwanted sexual advances over the years.

Phyllis Kupferstein, a lawyer for Weinstein, said the lawsuit lacked merit and she would move to dismiss it. She pointed out the same law firm filed a class-action complaint in December 2017 alleging that Miramax, The Weinstein Co. and the members of its board of directors had colluded to perpetuate and conceal Weinstein's sexual harassment of six other women, among them the scriptwriter and actress Louisette Geiss.