Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty in a courtroom in Los Angeles on Wednesday to all 11 charges of rape and sexual assault against five women in California hotel rooms.
The convicted rapist who is already serving 23 years in jail has been brought back to the city where he once presided over massive film deals to face more charges that could result in an additional 140 years in prison.
“The not guilty plea is entered,” said Judge Sergio Tapia, after an attorney spoke on behalf of Weinstein, who was present in the courtroom, slumped in a wheelchair and wearing a brown jumpsuit.
Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting five women in Los Angeles including Lauren Young, who alleges the “Pulp Fiction” producer sexually assaulted her in a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013 when she was a 22-year-old aspiring actress.
Young has already appeared as a witness in the New York case that led to Weinstein’s existing conviction — seen as a landmark for the #MeToo movement — which he is appealing at a later date.
The other Los Angeles charges against Weinstein date back as far as 2004. The statute of limitations has expired on further allegations of rape against Weinstein in the film industry capital as far back as 1977.
They follow a similar pattern of Weinstein allegedly attacking women — many aspiring Hollywood stars — in hotel rooms around Beverly Hills and west Los Angeles.
– Fallen Hollywood titan –
In total, nearly 90 women including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault.
Wednesday’s hearing was largely held behind closed doors, with Weinstein wheeled into the courtroom past reporters earlier in the morning and the doors locked for around an hour before journalists were admitted for a brief conclusion.
Weinstein’s lawyer Mark Werksman called for three of the charges dating back as far as 2004 to be dropped as the statue of limitations had expired.
He also requested Weinstein be granted a medical evaluation — which Judge Tapia granted.
At the end of the hearing, during which a notably pale Weinstein sat silently, cuffed to his chair, the judge wished the former Tinseltown titan “good luck.”
Weinstein appeared to thank the judge, his mouth obscured and voice muffled by an ill-fitting blue mask.
Before the allegations emerged in 2017, Weinstein and his brother Bob had already left an indelible mark on Hollywood.
They co-founded Miramax Films, a small distribution company named after his mother Miriam and father Max, in 1979. It was sold to Disney in 1993.
Their hits included 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar. Over the years, Weinstein’s films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes. AFP