Weinstein’s lawyer vowed to beat the charges levelled against the Hollywood producer.
In a brief appearance at the New York Supreme Court, Weinstein formally entered a not guilty plea to two charges of rape and one of a criminal sexual act. The judge set the date of his next appearance in court for 20 September 2018.
The 66-year-old Weinstein, formerly one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, faces a jail term of up to 25 years if convicted of the most serious charges.
The hearing comes after he had been indicted by a grand jury last week and released on a bail of US$1 million. He was ordered to surrender his passport and wear an electronic monitoring device.
The present charges relate to two unidentified women and took place between 2004 and 2013. One of the alleged victims told investigators Weinstein raped her in a hotel room. The other alleged victim accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex.
Weinstein did not answer any questions from the assembled media, but his attorney, Ben Brafman, told reporters the charges were “eminently defensible”.
“I think today is the first day of this process. We begin our fight now. If we are successful, there may not be a trial.”
Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein pleads not guilty to rape and sexual assault charges https://t.co/PcoOyOk2rk
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 5, 2018
Start of a long process
Weinstein has now been accused of sexual assault by more than 80 women and of rape by 13 women. He has denied all charges of non-consensual sex.
Other investigations into possible crimes by Weinstein are ongoing in London and Los Angeles.
New York officials have also left open the possibility Weinstein will face further charges in that jurisdiction.
This case marks the first criminal proceedings against Weinstein, though multiple allegations of sexual assault and rape against him surfaced in October 2017 when an investigation by the The New York Times revealed that he had paid off multiple accusers.
The womens’ accounts in that story helped spark the #MeToo movement, with many other women coming forward with accounts of sexual abuse and harassment.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 5, 2018
James Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University, told USA Today the movement had been influential in how these cases are tried. “It’s a sea change in the prosecution of sexual offences,” he said.
“What males didn’t begin to get until the Me Too movement is that the kind of thoughts that males had – oh, she didn’t report it right away, it must not have happened – those kinds of thoughts were vividly demonstrated to be without foundation.”
Weinstein, once a ubiquitous presence in Hollywood circles, has withdrawn from public life in recent times. Since the allegations surfaced, he has since been fired from the board of The Weinstein Company, been expelled from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) and been blacklisted by his alma mater, the University of Buffalo.