NEW YORK (AFP) - Harvey Weinstein was fighting rape and sexual assault charges against a total of three women Monday (July 2), as New York prosecutors build a high-stakes legal battle targeting the disgraced Hollywood mogul.
The 66-year-old's career imploded in October in a blaze of accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse from dozens of women that triggered a major reckoning about harassment in the workplace and the global #MeToo movement.
Currently out on US$1 million ($1.36 million) bail, the father of five had last month already pleaded not guilty to allegedly raping one woman at a Manhattan hotel in 2013 and forcing another to perform oral sex on him in 2004.
Prosecutors announced that a New York grand jury had returned an additional count of criminal sexual act in the first degree and two counts of predatory sexual assault against Weinstein for allegedly forcing a third woman into oral sex on July 10, 2006.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the fallen power-broker whose films earned dozens of Oscars, could be jailed for a maximum of life or a minimum of 10 years if convicted of the latest charges.
"This indictment is the result of the extraordinary courage exhibited by the survivors," Vance said, urging other women who may have experienced "predatory abuse" at the hands of Weinstein to also come forward.
Weinstein is to be arraigned July 9 on the latest charges. His lawyer Ben Brafman said his client would enter another not guilty plea.
"Mr Weinstein maintains that all of these allegations are false and he expects to be fully vindicated. Furthermore, to charge Mr Weinstein as a predator when the interactions were each consensual is simply not justified," Brafman said.
Weinstein has steadfastly denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex. The new charges bring to six the number of counts against him. None of the three women have been named, but according to Brafman, the 2013 rape complaint comes from a woman who had a 10-year affair with Weinstein.
Former actress Lucia Evans, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex, is thought to be the woman involved in the 2004 case. Overall, nearly 100 women have come forward publicly to say they were harassed or sexually abused by Weinstein over a period of more than two decades.
Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are among more than two dozen actresses who say they were sexually harassed by the producer.
Several, including Asia Argento and Rose McGowan, say they were raped.
The #MeToo movement has seen people around the world come forward with cases of sexual mistreatment, leading to the downfall of powerful men across industries, including Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.
Weinstein has been ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device, and his travel is restricted to the states of New York and Connecticut. In addition, he is facing a slew of civil lawsuits and his former studio has filed for bankruptcy.