Monday 22 January 2018

NYPD says rape claim is 'credible'

Fresh allegations against Harvey Weinstein as BBC's Chris Evans also faces sex claims

Julianna Margulies (pictured) made allegations against Weinstein and Seagal
Julianna Margulies (pictured) made allegations against Weinstein and Seagal

Sam Blewett

Police in Los Angeles are investigating a second claim against Harvey Weinstein, as detectives in New York described a rape allegation against the disgraced producer as "credible".

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said the latest complainant had accused Weinstein of "lewd conduct" in 2015, adding to the force's investigation of a rape allegation.

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein

This came after the New York Police Department's (NYPD) chief of detectives, Robert Boyce, said the force was working to gather enough evidence to arrest the 65-year-old over claims by actress Paz de la Huerta. The Boardwalk Empire actress (33) told Vanity Fair magazine that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010.

Speaking at a press conference last Friday, Mr Boyce said the force had interviewed her and was working on gathering corroboratory evidence.

"She put forth a credible and detailed narrative to us," he said. "We have an actual case here, so we are happy with where the investigation is right now. Mr Weinstein is out of state, we would need an arrest warrant to arrest him.

"So right now we are gathering our evidence. We continue to do so every day."

Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal

The LAPD was already investigating the claim by an Italian actress that Weinstein raped her in a hotel near Beverly Hills in 2013.

Of the new allegation, force spokesman Tony Im said: "We have a second victim that came forward alleging Harvey Weinstein of lewd conduct that occurred in 2015."

Four forces in total are investigating the former Hollywood king-maker who had a rapid fall from grace when dozens of women publicly accused him of sexual harassment and assault.

Officers in Beverly Hills are also investigating- and London's Metropolitan Police are looking into 11 separate allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein from seven different women.

Weinstein has "unequivocally denied" all allegations of non-consensual sex.

And yesterday actress Julianna Margulies added her voice to Hollywood's sexual harassment controversy, saying Weinstein and actor Steven Seagal both tried to sexually harass her earlier in her career.

The star of The Sopranos, ER and The Good Wife claimed that she was led to their rooms by female assistants, ostensibly for business reasons, however: "These women were leading me to the lion's den."

Speaking on Sirius XM radio, Margulies told now-familiar tales of being taken to hotel rooms on the pretext of some official business.

In the Seagal case, Margulies was 23 when a female casting director asked her to go to the actor's hotel room at 10pm to "go over a scene". She was told it was between her and another actress for a role that would get her the coveted Screen Actors Guild card.

Margulies said when she arrived at the hotel, the casting director wasn't there, but Seagal was. When she entered his hotel room: "I saw his gun, which I had never seen a gun in real life."

Somehow, Margulies said, she got out of the room "unscathed. I never was raped. And I never was harmed. And I don't know how I got out of that hotel room… I sorta screamed my way out".

Shaken by the encounter, a far more wary Margulies recounted a 1996 encounter with Weinstein. She was in her third season of ER and told that if she met Weinstein, she would get a screen test. She was also promised that the woman accompanying her would be in the room at the hotel with them.

"She knocked on the door, and she was standing behind me," Margulies recalled. "And he opened the door in a bathrobe. I could see that there were candles lit in the room, and there was a dinner for two. And I saw him stare at her, daggers."

Margulies turned to quiz her companion. "And I caught her in a shrug - like 'What could I do?' And he looked at me, furious, and he took the door and he said, 'Just wanted to say good audition'. And he slammed the door."

Margulies did not get the part. And though she is now established enough in the Hollywood firmament to avoid future such incidents, she asked, "What's a 16-year-old actress supposed to do?"

The revelations come as it is being reported that US police are monitoring Weinstein's movements in case he tries to leave the country.

A law enforcement officer told the New York Post: "We don't want another Roman Polanski on our hands." The Oscar-winning movie director fled the USA for France in 1977 after he was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl.

Meanwhile, the BBC has been accused of ignoring allegations that Chris Evans, the corporation's highest paid star, repeatedly exposed himself to a female colleague while working for Channel 4.

Details of the alleged sustained sexual harassment in the 1990s, when Evans was working on The Big Breakfast, were spelled out in an email to Lord Hall, the BBC's director general.

The woman's allegations were published in the Sun. She said Evans "would walk in naked following his morning ritual of taking a bath and would sometimes touch himself".

"On one occasion, he grabbed my breasts," she reportedly said.

She added: "This is something that I have had to live with for over two decades and it still haunts me now."

According to the woman, Evans, who was married to Carol McGiffin at the time, intensified his bullying after his advances were rejected.

"He turned other crew members against me and I became very isolated. I went from loving my job to feeling dread every morning."

Evans, who denied sexual assault and claimed he was the victim of a witch-hunt, was questioned by police about the allegations last year. The investigation was dropped at the woman's request. "I did this because at the time I was too scared to face him in a court hearing."

Responding to the allegations relating to Evans, a BBC spokesman said: "We take these issues very seriously and are committed to dealing with matters responsibly and fairly when they are raised with us.

"We wouldn't comment on individuals but the matters raised do not relate to a BBC programme and date back more than 20 years, and press reports in 2016 stated that the police investigated - including interviewing under caution - and concluded that there was insufficient evidence. For these reasons we do not think that the BBC could have relevant information relating to the allegations made.

"If an individual has information that might change the police's judgment, then that would be a matter to raise directly with them."

Sunday Independent

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