Attorneys for Harvey Weinstein “used deceptive tactics” to get hold of video footage that purportedly shows the much accused producer sexually harassing a woman he later is alleged to have raped in a New York hotel room, a class action suit filed today claims.
The sometime graphic suit filed Friday from Melissa Thompson, Larissa Gomes and Caitlin Dulany doesn’t name Weinstein’s lawyers as defendants. However, the potentially multimillion-dollar case does cite the producer himself, the now-sold The Weinstein Company, its board, co-founder Bob Weinstein, Miramax and the Walt Disney Company as responsible and complicit in the decades of misconduct by the now-disgraced Weinstein.
While much of the suit citing the RICO Act and seeking a jury trial resembles language that attorneys from New York and Chicago’s Hagens Berman Sobe Shapiro LLP and Manhattan Beach’s The Armenta Law Firm used in another class action in December last year, the scathing accusations against one of Weinstein’s current lawyers and a former associate by ex-tech exec Thompson potentially unveils a new strong-arm tactic on the part of the frequently strong-arming producer.
“In October 2017, Weinstein’s attorneys, Benjamin Brafman and Alex Spiro, used deceptive tactics to cause [Thompson] to believe that Brafman and Spiro were working for the victims in order to entice her to turn over her visual and audio evidence of Weinstein’s actions (which she did),” says the 89-page filing (read it here). “She did not learn that Brafman was actually Weinstein’s attorney until after turning over the evidence in her possession, causing her credible fear for her safety, severe emotional distress, and injury to her business and property.”
Just days after representing Weinstein in his arrest in New York City on multiple rape charges and a sex crimes charge, and days before going before the courts with the producer on his grand jury indictment yesterday, Brafman told Deadline that his hands are clean.
“This firm has never represented Melissa Thompson and I personally never met with her or any of the other women named in the lawsuit,” the pugilistic lawyer said. As she has stated in the past, Dulany claims she was raped by Weinstein in 1996 at the Cannes Film Festival. Gomes says Weinstein assaulted her in a Toronto hotel room in 2000.
“Alex Spiro was never a partner of this firm, he was one of many associates and left the firm in or about September 2017,” Brafman added today. “To the extent he spoke with or met with any of these women, he did so on his own time after he had left this firm and was already employed by Quinn Emanuel,” the Brafman & Associates founder asserts. “In addition, while at this firm, had never met with Mr. Weinstein nor did he have any responsibility whatsoever in connection with our representation of Mr. Weinstein in any matter.”
Said Spiro in a separate statement to Deadline: “I never have and I never would represent Harvey Weinstein, I left the Brafman firm well before Brafman ever represented Weinstein, and, in fact, I represent one of the key victims, but Ms. Thompson has never been a client.”
The video in question that Thompson cites is from an alleged September 29, 2011 encounter she says occurred with Weinstein where the producer pawed her repeatedly in the TWC’s offices on Greenwich Street as she demonstrated a platform she was pitching. “After making small talk, Weinstein asked Thompson ‘So am I allowed to flirt with you?’ ” the class action complaint details. “Thompson responded: ‘Ummmmm. We’ll see. A little bit.’ ” It adds that Thompson felt cornered, as if she had to play along to not blow the pitch before it had even started. “Weinstein became curt and said: ‘Oh, then I won’t. What do you want?’ making clear that she had to play if she wanted his business.”
“Thompson felt her brain shifting between fight or flight mode,” the filing continues. As his caresses increased, she lost her ability to focus on the pitch, forgot what she was saying, and could not think clearly.”
After a call from Weinstein to then TWC marketing boss Steve Bruno supposedly telling him to meet with Thompson, the producer invited her to meet him at the Tribeca Grand Hotel later that evening. It was at the frequent Weinstein hangout that the alleged rape occurred.
“Thompson was completely unnerved, panic-stricken, and in a state of shock and disbelief,” the filing says. “Thompson felt nauseous and distressed. Moments of the assault that just occurred flashed in her mind—something that would continue for years to come. She tried to gather herself and left the room alone, Weinstein now standing in an open bathrobe after his shower. Thompson felt dirty and ashamed.”
According to the new class action suit, not long after the New York Times exposé on Weinstein in early October last year, Thompson was introduced to then-Brafman associate Spiro, who left her with the impression he would represent her in any potential action against the producer. In that vein, Thompson says she emailed him “video evidence of Weinstein’s assault of her.”
While the two had an email correspondence, by November 2017 it had ceased and Thompson says she has not heard from Spiro since.
In another case, Weinstein was arraigned on felony sex crime charges in New York Criminal Court on May 25. A judge set a prearranged bail of $1 million, a $10 million bond, took Weinstein’s passport to halt concerns of flight risk, and clamped a monitor on the producer to ensure his movements were restricted to the Empire State and Connecticut.
As well as being investigated by federal prosecutors, and now indicted by the Manhattan D.A. and the NYPD, Weinstein is being scrutinized by the LAPD, which sent three cases to the L.A. County D.A. on February 8. As UK police continue their investigation, the Beverly Hills Police passed two cases of sexual assault to Jackie Lacey’s office on January 2.
There are also nearly a dozen lawsuits filed in the courts against Weinstein from some of the 80 women who have gone public in the past several months with allegations of sexual assault and more by the once powerful producer.