Harvey Weinstein, studios face class action suit over alleged sexual misconduct

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Women in Hollywood see chance for change in Weinstein uproar

LOS ANGELES — An actress filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday against Harvey Weinstein, claiming she and other women had been subjected to a variety of brutal sex attacks by the disgraced Hollywood producer.

The suit, filed by “Jane Doe 1 and on behalf of all others similarly situated,” says the movie mogul assaulted the California actress as she auditioned for a role with Miramax, the studio cofounded by Weinstein and his brother Bob.

Damages being sought exceed $5 million, which could be tripled under federal racketeering accusations made in the lawsuit. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) targets ongoing patterns of criminal conduct. The 1970 law has been used to target Mafia bosses, professional sports leagues, anti-abortion activists, and Catholic dioceses accused of covering up sexual abuse by priests, among many others.

Weinstein and the companies are accused in the suit of violating federal racketeering laws, assault, civil battery, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, according to the lawsuit. The companies are also accused of negligent supervision. “During her audition, Jane Doe 1 was assaulted by Weinstein, threatened, falsely imprisoned, and suffered emotional and physical distress, and was injured in her property or livelihood as a result of Weinstein’s actions,” the suit alleges, without giving a date for the incident.

“Weinstein told Jane Doe 1 that if she refused his advances and his requests, he would ruin her, and he ultimately withdrew the offer he had given her for a part because she would not accede to his advances.”

The complainant’s lawyers appealed to other victims to join the action against the producer, The Weinstein Company, and Miramax, now owned by the Qatari beIN Media Group, arguing that “hundreds of other female actors like her” have found themselves on his casting couch.

“Under the guise of meetings ostensibly to help further class members’ careers or hire them for roles, Weinstein isolated (the) plaintiff and the class members in an attempt to engage in unwanted sexual conduct that took many forms: flashing, groping, fondling, battering, sexual assault, attempted rape and/or completed rape,” the lawsuit states.

A lawyer and a spokeswoman for Weinstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did two representatives of the Weinstein Co.

A spokeswoman for Miramax referred comment to the Walt Disney Co, which owned Miramax when Weinstein was the head of the studio. Disney, which bought Miramax in 1993, did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations. Police in New York, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and London have said they are investigating allegations of sexual assault or rape by Weinstein. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

It adds that victims who wanted careers in film or television “understood that Weinstein was a powerful force in the production world” and acted under duress and the threat of being blacklisted if they rejected him or complained.

The actress is the latest of more than 100 women who have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape, with high-profile accusers including stars Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The action follows a lawsuit filed against Weinstein and The Weinstein Company in Los Angeles on Tuesday by a single unidentified actress represented by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred.

The woman says she met the now infamous mogul at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills in late 2015 to discuss being cast in the Netflix series Marco Polo.

Once there, however, Weinstein told the woman he wanted to masturbate in front of her and when she said “no” he proceeded to grasp her wrist with one hand and masturbate with the other, the suit alleges.

In the spring of the following year, Weinstein is alleged to have contacted her again as if nothing had happened, giving her the impression she had been cast in Marco Polo.

He invited her to meet him again at the Montage Hotel to celebrate and she agreed, according to the woman’s account.

During the meeting, he excused himself and returned in a bathrobe, but when she said she didn’t want to do anything sexual, he dragged her into the bedroom where he used his “massive strength and weight to force himself on her,” the suit alleges.

The woman said she fled the room as soon as she could break free.

The actress is seeking compensation and damages, claiming sexual battery, assault and negligence.

Weinstein’s representatives denied the latest allegations, as with all the other accusations of non-consensual sexual contact he has faced in recent weeks.

Meanwhile US actor Terry Crews publicly named high-powered agent Adam Venit as the man he claims groped him at a party last year and said he would “not be shamed” by the alleged assault.

“Back in February 2016, I was assaulted by Adam Venit, who is head of the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavor, one of the biggest agencies in the world, period,” Crews, 49, told ABC’s Good Morning America.

“He’s connected to probably everyone I know in the business… I did not know this man. I have never had a conversation with him, ever.”

Venit has represented a host of stars, from Sylvester Stallone and Eddie Murphy to Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.

WME said in a statement to ABC News it had suspended Venit to look into the claims by Crews, a star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. — AFP/Reuters