Wednesday 17 October 2018

Ten days that toppled the King of Hollywood

One article in the 'New York Times' has sparked an international scandal which has already seen Weinstein expelled from the Oscars, says Rosa Silverman

Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman. Photo: Reuters
Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman. Photo: Reuters

Rosa Silverman

Two years ago, American tabloids published a story about the Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and an accusation of sexual assault levelled at him by an Italian model. On March 27, 2015, he had invited Ambra Battilana Gutierrez to his office in New York's Tribeca area for a business meeting. While she was there, he allegedly lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put his hand up her skirt. Gutierrez went straight to the police.

Consequently, detectives set up a sting on Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company and a titan of the US film industry: the then 22-year-old who had shopped him was to meet him at the Tribeca Grand Hotel the following day, this time wearing a wire, in an attempt to extract a confession from him. The plan worked, and the audio - obtained by The New Yorker magazine and released this week - recorded the movie mogul dismissively apologising for having groped the model, but persistently urging her to join him in his room. This damning evidence could have been the smoking gun that brought Weinstein's world crashing down. If charged and convicted of the alleged offence against Gutierrez alone, he could have landed in jail. But he was never charged, with the Manhattan district attorney citing a lack of evidence to prove criminal intent.

Instead, a shadow was cast over Gutierrez instead, as it emerged she had once attended a "Bunga Bunga" party hosted by former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. She had also reportedly accused an Italian businessman of sexual assault, but later refused to cooperate with the investigation into him. Two weeks after the Weinstein sting, the Manhattan district attorney decided not to bring charges. The 65-year-old married father-of-five is understood to have reached a financial settlement with his accuser in return for her signing a non-disclosure agreement.

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