Six women are suing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the studio he co-founded, seeking to turn their case into a class-action suit representing what they say are hundreds of women whom he has sexually assaulted in his decades in Hollywood.
The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in New York against him and the Weinstein Co. outlines what the six plaintiffs allege was a massive scheme that facilitated predatory behavior by Weinstein and, they say, enabled him to rape and sexually assault women.
“We are but six women representing hundreds,” the women said in a statement Wednesday. “Dozens have come forward so far, and many more remain in the shadows, still trying to find their courage. They are watching us defend ourselves for not coming forward sooner. They are reading internet comments, assessing the risks of coming forward and hoping that a few of us can obtain justice without them having to add their names to the list and go down in history as having been Weinsteined.”
The plaintiffs are Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Zoe Brock, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller and Nannette Klatt.
Meanwhile, Weinstein’s former personal assistant of nearly two years said that, as part of her job, she provided him with erectile dysfunction medication and stocked an apartment for him with bathrobes, flowers and women’s lingerie. She said she, too, plans to sue Weinstein and the Weinstein Co., alleging sexual harassment.
The former assistant, Sandeep Rehal, will allege that starting when she was a 26-year-old Hollywood rookie, she was repeatedly “sexually harassed throughout her tenure” at the Weinstein Co., which ended in 2015, attorney Genie Harrison said Wednesday.
In recent months, more than 80 women — many of them prominent actresses — have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misdeeds spanning four decades.
With more than a dozen criminal investigations into Weinstein underway in Los Angeles, London and New York, the fallen producer is facing a mounting pile of civil litigation. At least one other alleged victim and her attorneys have already sought to bring a class-action lawsuit against him.
Since a New York Times article Oct. 5 first revealed allegations against Weinstein, accusations and condemnations have engulfed him. Weinstein Co. fired its co-founder. He also has been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Producers Guild of America and the Television Academy.
Weinstein has categorically denied through his attorneys any crimes. “Mr. Weinstein has never at any time committed an act of sexual assault, and it is wrong and irresponsible to conflate claims of impolitic behavior or consensual sexual contact later regretted with an untrue claim of criminal conduct. There is a wide canyon between mere allegation and truth, and we are confident that any sober calculation of the facts will prove no legal wrongdoing occurred,” attorneys Blair Berk and Ben Brafman said in a statement. “Nonetheless, to those offended by Mr. Weinstein’s behavior, he remains deeply apologetic.”
In the lawsuit, Geiss alleged that during the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, Weinstein exposed himself wearing only a bathrobe and instructed Geiss to continue talking as he got into a hot tub before asking that she watch him masturbate as she pitched him a screenplay.
Kendall, an actress, stated that in 1993, when she was 23, she went to Weinstein’s New York apartment for a meeting and he asked her for a massage and then chased her around the room naked. Kendall was on a target list drawn up by the mogul of people with potentially damaging information, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Steve Berman. The complaint alleges a man who pretended to be from the Guardian newspaper contacted her this summer, but was actually an “intelligence participant” working for Weinstein’s investigative team.
New Zealand-born model Brock stated that in 1998 she was tricked into going to Weinstein’s room in Cannes. His assistants had all left, she stated, and after he appeared naked demanding a massage, she had to hide in the bathroom as he pounded on the door. When she eventually got back to her hotel, she called her mother and actor Rufus Sewell, who replied: “Don’t tell me you have been Weinsteined,” according to the complaint. The incident was recounted in a Los Angeles Times article about Weinstein’s ties to the fashion business.
Also Wednesday, Rehal’s attorney said she is preparing her own litigation against the former mogul.
“Sexual harassment includes verbal harassment, physical harassment, offensive material and demands, unwanted touching and many other actions that create a toxic work environment based on gender,” Genie Harrison, the assistant’s personal attorney told The Times on Wednesday morning. “She was a young woman in her first real office job. She reported his behavior.”
The high-ranking member of the company whom she informed later reported his concerns about Weinstein’s actions to the company board, Harrison said. He said Rehal left the company in February 2015 after a severance and did not make public her allegation until now because she feared Weinstein.
Those allegations appeared in a New York Times report Tuesday laying out the apparatus Weinstein used to keep stories about his conduct out of media, including an army of contacts in the tabloid media and close relationships in publications and media ownership.
Weinstein’s attorneys refuted her allegation. “At no time during his tenure at either Miramax or TWC did Mr. Weinstein ever utilize company resources for personal expenditures, and in the few instances where there was any confusion, Mr. Weinstein immediately reimbursed the company out of his own pocket,” they said in a statement.
12:55 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the lawsuits against Harvey Weinstein.