Thursday, December 14, 2017

Harvey Weinstein sued for sexual battery by actress

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An unnamed actress has sued Harvey Weinstein alleging he committed sexual battery against her in Beverly Hills hotel rooms in 2015 and 2016 after she agreed to meet the producer to discuss a television role.

The actress is identified only as Jane Doe in the sexual battery lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. It alleges that Weinstein held the woman against her will while Weinstein engaged in sexual situations.

The suit says the woman first met Weinstein in 2011 at a party and he offered to assist her with her acting career. For several years, Weinstein invited the woman to awards show parties.

Weinstein met her at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills in late 2015 to discuss a part in the television series "Marco Polo," which Weinstein and his company were producing. The producer asked her if he could masturbate in front of her, and when she refused, he held her by the wrist and forced her to watch him, the lawsuit said.

The next incident happened several months later at the same hotel, according to the lawsuit. The woman agreed to meet Weinstein to discuss the "Marco Polo" role again, and this time alleges Weinstein threw her on a bed, started performing oral sex on her and put his penis inside her vagina before starting to start masturbate on her, the lawsuit states.

The woman was able to break free and flee the room, the suit said.

"Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein," the producer's representative Holly Baird wrote in a statement. "Mr. Weinstein obviously can't speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. It also names The Weinstein Co., which fired its co-founder after decades of allegations of sexual harassment were detailed in an expose by The New York Times last month.

The Weinstein Co. did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The lawsuit alleges the company knew of Weinstein's sexual harassment and abuse behavior, and showed "deliberate indifference" to prevent his actions.

The lawsuit was filed by Gloria Allred, who did not immediately return a message seeking additional details about the case.

Beverly Hills police have said they are investigating allegations against Weinstein, but have released few details. Authorities in Los Angeles, New York and London are also investigating Weinstein for possible criminal prosecution.

The harassment and abuse allegations against Weinstein have created led to numerous women coming forward with allegations of harassment and abuse against powerful men, including actor Kevin Spacey, numerous entertainment industry executives and politicians in the United States and abroad.

The scandal in Hollywood has prompted Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to establish a task force to handle any forthcoming criminal complaints. The advocacy group Women in Film also plans to make a help line and panel of pro-bono legal experts available beginning next month to provide counseling, referrals and legal advice to harassment victims

Also on Tuesday, the independent theater Cinefamily in Los Angeles announced it was shutting down due to crippling debt after conducting a review of sexual harassment allegations against two of its leaders. The theater had numerous celebrity fans and supporters, was rocked by sexual harassment allegations against its executive director and a board member in August.

The board suspended the theater's activities and hired an independent firm to investigate the allegations.

The board says that no victims corroborated rape claims, but the investigation did uncover serious concerns and breaches of acceptable behavior.

Cinefamily had many celebrity supporters and fans including Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen, Brie Larson, Jon Favreau, Sting and James L. Brooks.

NBC News announced Tuesday it fired Matt Zimmerman, its top talent booker, for "inappropriate conduct" with more than one woman at the network.

Zimmerman used to be in charge of arranging guests for the "Today" show but in 2014 was promoted to vice president and led the behind-the-scenes unit responsible for such bookings at all NBC News programs.

The network didn't give any details Tuesday about Zimmerman's behavior, only that he violated company policy. The network acted in response to internal complaints.

Messages sent to Zimmerman were not returned Tuesday.

NBC recently fired political contributor Mark Halperin, who had been accused of sexual harassment by several women dating to when he worked at ABC News more than a decade ago.

___

Associated Press Writers David Bauder in New York and Sandy Cohen and Lindsey Bahr in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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