Harvey Weinstein scandal: New accuser files first lawsuit against Weinstein Company
George Clooney says he hopes "something good" will come out of allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein, with Julianne Moore and Matt Damon looking for accountability. (Oct. 23) AP
New accusers came forward Tuesday against Harvey Weinstein, pushing the total number of women alleging sexual misdeeds by the fallen mogul ever closer to 60. Meanwhile, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents at least three accusers, held yet another press conference, this time in New York, and urged Weinstein to negotiate with her. And the first lawsuit was filed against the struggling Weinstein Company, asserting its board covered up Weinstein's behavior and and seeking to "put the casting couch on trial."
Tuesday's developments, as they happen:
First accuser lawsuit is filed against The Weinstein Company: 'Put casting couch on trial'
Dominique Huett, 35, a New York-based actress, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Tuesday against The Weinstein Company, alleging that Harvey Weinstein pressured her into sex at the Pennisula Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2010 and that his company knew about multiple allegations against him of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1990s.
Huett's New York-based lawyer, Jeff Herman, who specializes in sexual-abuse cases, told USA TODAY he and Huett aim to put the "Hollywood casting couch" culture on trial through the lawsuit.
"It's a civil case and one of her motivations is to kind of clean up Hollywood by holding the (Weinstein) company accountable for the casting couch, which would be a seismic shift in Hollywood," he said.
Huett's story, according to her lawsuit, is that she met with Weinstein at the bar at the hotel where he was living to discuss her career aspirations. When he suggested they go to his room, she thought the meeting would continue. She said Weinstein went to the bathroom and emerged wearing only a bathrobe, asked Huett for a massage and wouldn't take no for an answer, so she complied.
He asked to perform oral sex on her and she refused, but he persisted and she "froze," allowing him to continue. Then, she said, he masturbated in front of her. Afterwards, he offered to secure a role for her on Project Runway, his company's reality TV show.
Herman said Huett is not alleging Weinstein raped her because she could have walked out. But she felt "coerced" by the powerful mogul.
Her lawsuit asserts that the Weinstein Company and its board, including brother Bob Weinstein, was aware of its co-president's "pattern of using his power to coerce and force young actresses to engage in sexual acts with him," and that female employees of the firm acted as "honeypots" to lure women into "a false sense of security" before meeting with Weinstein.
"We know from reports from former employees that there were settlements the company was making and lawyers were involved and they were keeping it all confidential," Herman says. "We believe we have enough evidence to move forward."
He said Huett approached him after dozens of other women began coming forward two weeks ago to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, coercion, assault or rape in episodes dating back decades.
"Taking on a powerful guy like that is too much, it's too intimidating, so what we are seeing is a collective empowerment of women," Herman says. "It finally feels safe for them to come forward."
Gloria Allred introduces a new accuser who says Harvey forced oral sex during her period
At a press conference Tuesday, Allred introduced Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant who says she met the mogul at the 2004 premiere of The Aviator. They met again at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 and she offered to help on his productions in New York.
He told her to come by his Cannes hotel. When she did, he suggested she massage him. Crying, "I felt the meeting was going nowhere and I left," Haleyi said.
But Weinstein got in touch afterward and offered her a job on one of his TV productions in New York. They had no contact during production, and after the show wrapped, she sent him an email thanking him for the experience. He asked her to meet him at the Mercer Hotel lobby "for a chat."
This time, he was "completely charming and a total gentleman" Haleyi said. A few days later, at his office, they spoke again, and he offered her a ride home, along with his assistant.
Weinstein then invited her to the couture shows in Paris with him, to stay at the Ritz and take a private jet. After she declined, "he showed up at her apartment twice in one day and “literally physically forced himself in through the door pleading with me to come with him to Paris," she said.
Haleyi finally told Weinstein she wasn't interested in him romantically and that she had heard about his “terrible reputation with women.” Weinstein backed off.
When he returned from Paris, Weinstein asked her to meet at his loft apartment in Soho. Haleyi says she went because she wanted to maintain a good relationship with him. "It was not long before he was all over me, making sexual advances," she said. Haleyi said no. Finally she told him she was on her period, and "please stop."
"He wouldn't take no for an answer and backed me into a room which was not lit, but looked like a kid's bedroom. He held me down on the bed. I tried to get him off of me and kept asking him to stop but it was impossible. He then orally forced himself on me while I was on my period. He even pulled my tampon out. I was mortified,” Haleyi said, beginning to weep as the cameras rolled.
“I would not have wanted anyone to do that to me, even if that person had been a romantic partner,” she said. Haleyi said afterwards he rolled over and asked her, “Don’t you feel we're so much closer to each other now?"
Though the alleged assault may have occurred outside New York's statute of limitations, said Allred "it may be relevant information for law enforcement to have as they investigate Mr. Weinstein."
'Hunting Ground' filmmakers plan Hollywood sequel
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, who have made Oscar-nominated documentaries about sexual assault in the military (2012's The Invisible War) and on college campuses (2015's The Hunting Ground), are already at work on a follow-up about the crisis in Hollywood.
Although they'd wanted to make this movie for years, the duo told the Associated Press they were hamstrung by a lack of victims willing to speak on the record or a studio willing to distribute it.
But after the Weinstein story broke, that was no longer a problem: “It’s like an invisible dam collapsed,” Ziering said.
The new movie, they say, will illuminate the “behavior of predatory perpetrators such as Harvey Weinstein and others,” and the culture that “enables and protects them.”
'Wonder Woman' star Connie Nielsen shares her Harvey Weinstein story
In a guest column published Tuesday by Variety, Wonder Woman star Connie Nielsen wrote, "I feel a strong wish to clarify just how well-known Harvey’s actions were in our community throughout his reign as one of the most powerful players in the industry,"
Although she said she had no personal run-ins with him during production on 2005's The Great Raid, she did warn her young co-star not to accept any drink invitations from the producer unless she knew others would be present.
"It was, therefore, a real shock when Harvey proceeded to put his hand on my thigh at dinner during the opening night of Great Raid, at which both my boyfriend and my brother were present," Nielsen recalled. "I grabbed his hand and squeezed it violently to hurt him and proceeded to hold it in place on his own thigh. I steered clear of him as soon as I could for the rest of the evening but soon forgot about it, until the New York Times and New Yorker pieces set off a landslide."
She warned, "As long as we suspect female actors of being somehow complicit in their own victimization, as willing participants in their own humiliation, we shame the victim and enable the culture of silence that allows predators to act with impunity."
Nielsen joins a swelling list of named accusers of Weinstein, now reaching towards 60.
Ashley Judd books first television interview since 'NYT' story
On Thursday, Actress Ashley Judd, whose story led off the explosive Oct. 5 New York Times story, will give her first interview since the scandal broke.
Pieces of the interview will air across the network's news shows, including Good Morning America, World News Tonight With David Muir and Nightline, as well as its digital and radio divisions.
It's not clear whether Judd will add more details of her encounter with Weinstein than what she's already shared, and ABC News did not provide any clips of the interview in advance.
Contributing: Associated Press