Hollywood mogul Weinstein pleads not guilty to new sex assault charge

Harvey Weinstein. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of sexually assaulting a woman in 2006, the third criminal sex assault case brought against him, and his attorney said he expects further charges to follow.

More than 70 women, mostly young actresses and other women employed in the movie business, have accused the 66-year-old co-founder of the Miramax film studio of sexual misconduct, including rape, in a series of incidents dating back decades.

The accusations gave rise to the #MeToo movement in which hundreds of women publicly accused powerful men in business, politics and entertainment of sexual harassment and abuse, lifting a shroud that had long shielded such behaviour.

New York state Supreme Court Justice James Burke rejected a request by prosecutors to order house arrest for Weinstein, allowing him to remain free on the $1 million bail that has been in effect following his May not guilty plea on charges that he assaulted two other women, one in 2004 and one in 2013.

Weinstein has repeatedly denied having any non-consensual sexual encounters.

“Any suggestion that Mr Weinstein raped anyone based on the evidence that I have in my possession already is a ludicrous suggestion,” defence attorney Benjamin Brafman told journalists after the hearing.

Brafman added: “We anticipate based on what prosecutors have said that there may be more charges.”

Prosecutors contend Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on the woman in 2006. The latest charges include two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a maximum life sentence, and one count of the criminal sexual act.

Earlier charges included two counts of rape and one count of the criminal sexual act. Weinstein was charged after a months-long investigation by the New York Police Department.

Prosecutors have not named Weinstein’s accusers.

Details from the 2004 case align with an account by Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress who told the New Yorker magazine in October 2017 that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex.

After Weinstein was publicly implicated in sexual misconduct, his eponymous company Weinstein Co. fired him and filed for bankruptcy, and he was expelled by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Through his company and Miramax, Weinstein won plaudits and awards for movies including “Shakespeare in Love,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “The Crying Game” and “The King’s Speech.”

London police and Los Angeles prosecutors have also been reviewing sexual assault accusations against Weinstein.