Harvey Weinstein indicted on rape charges by New York grand jury

Harvey Weinstein indicted

A New York City grand jury indicted Harvey Weinstein on rape charges, the Manhattan District Attorney said on Wednesday. Weinstein turned himself in to New York police last week and was released on bail.

"This indictment brings the defendant another step closer to accountability for the crimes of violence with which he is now charged," Manhattan DA Cy Vance said in a statement. "Our office will try this case not in the press, but in the courtroom where it belongs. The defendant's recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable. We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand."

Weinstein has been charged with rape in the first and third degrees, and criminal sexual act in the first degree. He has previously denied any nonconsensual sexual encounters.

The announcement came hours after Weinstein's lawyers said he'd decline to testify before the grand jury because there wasn't enough time to prepare him and "political pressure" made an indictment unavoidable.

A statement issued through a Weinstein spokesman said the 66-year-old film producer, who has denied the allegations, learned of the specific charges and the accusers' identities only after turning himself in Friday. With a deadline set for Wednesday afternoon to testify or not, his request for more time was denied, the statement said.

"Finally, Mr. Weinstein's attorneys noted that regardless of how compelling Mr. Weinstein's personal testimony might be, an indictment was inevitable due to the unfair political pressure being placed on Cy Vance to secure a conviction of Mr. Weinstein," the statement said, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Weinstein's lawyer, Ben Brafman, issued a statement to CBS News saying the indictment is a "merely a formal accusation." Brafman said Weinstein will enter a plea of not guilty and will "vigorously defend against these unsupported allegations that he strongly denies."

Vance said in a statement that the Weinstein camp's "recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable."

"We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand," Vance said.

Weinstein was charged Friday with rape and criminal sex act charges involving two women in New York, as a grand jury continued hearing evidence in the case; the panel has been at work for weeks. Defendants have the right to testify in a grand jury's secret proceedings but often don't, for various reasons.

Weinstein faces rape and criminal sex act charges involving two women in New York. Dozens more women have accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault in various locales.

He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex, and Brafman, said earlier Tuesday that Weinstein was "confident he's going to clear his name" in the New York prosecution.

Brafman called the rape allegation "absurd," saying that the accuser and Weinstein had a decade-long, consensual sexual relationship that continued after the alleged 2013 attack.

The woman, who hasn't been identified publicly, told investigators Weinstein confined her in a hotel room and raped her.

The other accuser in the case, former actress Lucia Evans, has gone public with her account of Weinstein forcing her to perform oral sex at his office in 2004. The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults unless they come forward publicly.

Vance, a Democrat, came under public pressure from women's groups to prosecute Weinstein after declining to do so in 2015, when an Italian model went to police to say Weinstein had groped her during a meeting.

Police set up a sting in which the woman recorded herself confronting Weinstein and him apologizing for his conduct. But Vance decided there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, ordered the state attorney general to investigate how Vance handled that matter.

Since last fall, more than 80 women have come forward to accuse the disgraced Hollywood mogul of sexual harassment, assault and rape. The allegations triggered the #MeToo movement, inspiring women around the world to publicly speak out about their mistreatment by powerful men.

One of Weinstein's accusers, Lucia Evans, said in a statement "what Mr. Weinstein's attorneys call casting couch behavior we know is actually a sex crime. A 'movement' doesn't indict. A grand jury does."