On the eve of his rape and assault trial in New York, disgraced movie maker Harvey Weinstein was hit with new criminal sex charges in Los Angeles, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Weinstein is being charged with one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint for “raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013."
An arraignment will be scheduled for a later date.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the charges just hours after Weinstein appeared in a Manhattan courtroom for procedural arguments ahead of a trial in New York on similar charges.
“We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them,” Lacey said in a statement. “I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them. It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward.”
A Weinstein representative did not immediately comment on the new charges.
Lacey’s office has been reviewing eight cases involving Weinstein, some of which were submitted as long as two years ago.
Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing, and his attorneys have painted most of the encounters as consensual.
L.A. prosecutors are recommending bail be set at $5 million. If convicted as charged, the defendant faces up to 28 years in state prison.
Weinstein, leaning on a walker, had limped out of a Manhattan court room just moments before news emerged of the West Coast charges.
But his defense team, arguing earlier to the judge that the New York jury should be sequestered for the entirety of the trial, had hinted at the possibility that additional criminal charges might be in the offing.
“We talked about a possible sequestration of the jury just based on all of the media attention this case is obviously getting,” defense attorney Donna Rotunno said. “The fact that there is a potential LA situation going on — and based on the fact that we don’t have any information about that — we are anticipating that if this were to happen as the trial unfolds, what that may look like.”
Just hours before news of the likely L.A. indictment dropped, Weinstein’s lawyer Damon Cheronis said that if West Coast prosecutors were to announce charges on Monday “the timing would be very suspect.”