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Harvey Weinstein’s Real-Life Courtroom Takedown: What Happened Inside the Accused Rapist’s First Arraignment

On Friday morning, the disgraced former mogul turned himself in to police. Two hours later, he was arraigned on various charges related to sex crimes in Manhattan's Supreme Court. IndieWire was there.

Harvey Weinstein and Benjamin BrafmanHarvey Weinstein arrested in New York, USA - 25 May 2018Harvey Weinstein (R) stands with his attorney Benjamin Brafman (R) during his arraignment in a criminal courtroom where he was formally charged with multiple counts of sexual assault in New York, New York, USA, 25 May 2018. Weinstein is with facing three felony charges - first-degree rape, third-degree rape, and one out of a criminal sexual act in the first degree.

Harvey Weinstein and Benjamin Brafman

Steven Hirsch/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

In a modest courtroom in lower Manhattan, the normally voluble Harvey Weinstein had only one word to say during his 10-minute arraignment: “Yes.” Two hours after turning himself into the police, and nearly eight months after a pair of damning exposes in the New York Times and The New Yorker, Weinstein faced charges of rape, a criminal sex act, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct before Judge Kevin McGrath, who asked the accused if he understood the terms of an order of protection put in place for the safety of one of his unnamed victims.

Weinstein occasionally leaned against the hardwood bench before him, jostling his blazer with his shackled hands, and tossing looks to his attorney, Benjamin Brafman. Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon described his “violent” crimes, and said that the current investigation found that the former Weinstein Company head used his “position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually.” Weinstein’s bail was set at $1 million cash (or $10 million bond). Brafman declared to the court that Weinstein would pay the $1 million via a Chase Bank cashier’s check.

While no victims were named during the arraignment, at least one is believed to be former actress Lucia Evans, who alleges that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him during an audition in 2004. No pleas are entered during arraignments, but outside the courtroom, Brafman told an assembled group of reporters that “Mr. Weinstein will enter a plea of not guilty … We intend to move very quickly to dismiss these charges.” Weinstein’s next court date is set for July 30.

On late Thursday afternoon, when word hit the wire that Weinstein would surrender to the NYPD the next morning, the Manhattan location of the New York State Supreme Court was the presumed hub for reporters and onlookers. Instead, the biggest crowd arrived at Manhattan’s First Precinct to see Weinstein turn himself in. Two hours later, he arrived at 100 Centre Street for his arraignment, where the mood inside the courthouse was decidedly more sober.

At 8AM on Friday morning, I queued up at the courthouse behind Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who first broke the story of Weinstein’s many alleged sex crimes last October. The back rows of the courtroom were largely reserved for members of the press and various employees from the District Attorney’s office.

I almost didn’t get in. One of the strangest things about the past few months is how a job rooted in watching and writing about movies suddenly became something much more difficult and draining. I don’t have an official press pass from the New York court system; why would I? But I needed one to enter the courtroom. Once there, though, I didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t. So I stayed in that orderly line, watching a photographer snap pictures of Twohey and Kantor, just feet from where Weinstein was set to enter the back entrance of the courthouse a little after 9AM.

Harvey Weinstein and Benjamin BrafmanHarvey Weinstein arrested in New York, USA - 25 May 2018 Harvey Weinstein (C) Harvey Weinstein signs papers with his attorney Benjamin Brafman (L) during his arraignment in a criminal courtroom where he was formally charged with multiple counts of sexual assault in New York, New York, USA, 25 May 2018. Weinstein is with facing three felony charges - first-degree rape, third-degree rape, and one out of a criminal sexual act in the first degree.

Harvey Weinstein and Benjamin Brafman

JEFFERSON SIEGEL/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Eventually, a combination of my New York driver’s license and my business card got me in. I sat in the back row, next to a pair of young ladies from the DA’s office who were as jittery as anyone. We chatted briefly and I mentioned those early weeks, when it seemed that every day brought another perpetrator. One of them wryly noted, “Now you know how we feel!”

The courtroom was packed, including dozens of New York State court officers lining the aisles, three approved photographers crammed in the back, and nervous attendees squeezing tight into benches meant to hold no more than 100 people. Weinstein’s arraignment wasn’t the first — a young man, charged with burglary, emerged from the back first, seemingly baffled to see the scene in front of him. As the back doors routinely swung open and closed, a low buzz could be heard outside. There were no shouts or screams when Weinstein arrived, just one court officer whispering to his colleagues, “He’s here.”

When Weinstein finally came in to the courtroom, admitted through the same door that every other criminal must shuffle through, he looked awful. Ashen, dazed, handcuffed, he came into the courtroom leaning on two members of the NYPD investigative team. (Another reporter outside the courthouse later told a bewildered colleague that he seemed so loose and confused that he looked drunk.) He glanced around the room, apparently searching for a friendly face, and ultimately gave up when he couldn’t spot any.

It wasn’t just a far cry from the Harvey of his heyday; it wasn’t the same Harvey the world saw a couple of hours earlier, when he and his team strode into the First Precinct — blocks from his old Tribeca office — for Weinstein’s pre-arranged surrender. That Weinstein toted an armful of books — one later identified as “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution” by Todd S. Purdum — wore a blazer over a blue cashmere sweater, and even had a momentary smirk.

In the courtroom, Weinstein’s white undershirt was visible underneath the bottom of his blazer and revealed someone who couldn’t be bothered to wear a tie to his arraignment for multiple violent sex crimes. For nearly 20 minutes, Weinstein sat in the back corner of the courtroom, occasionally blocked by an NYPD investigator standing guard, as various officers of the court and lawyers milled around in preparation. There were no formal announcements about what was to come, or when, but everyone stayed fixed on Weinstein. In the front row, a pair of sketch artists worked on his likeness.

When Weinstein was called to the front of the courtroom, he moved slowly, wobbling at times, before taking a place beside Brafman, who wore an incongruously cheery orange tie. Occasionally, Weinstein struggled with his cuffs — mostly, it just looked as if he had his hands crammed into his pockets — and allowed himself a single eyebrow raise as Illuzzi-Orbon elucidated charges. The cuffs were removed after all terms were agreed upon: the hefty bail, the waiver of extradition, the surrendering of his passport, a brief comment from Brafman about receiving a text message from the man tasked with putting on the GPS monitor. (He was stuck in traffic.)

When the arraignment adjourned, Weinstein went back out the way he came to be fitted for that GPS device, one that would monitor his location 24 hours a day, restricting him to only travel in New York state and Connecticut. The press pushed out, eager to get to a spot on the swelling sidewalk, where Brafman later delivered a short press conference.

As reporters waited for Brafman to emerge, one passerby asked a police officer what all the fuss was about, to which he responded in a clipped singsong, “Har-vey Wein-stein.” The curious passerby rolled his eyes, threw up his hands, and fired off with a single, “Oh, that fucking guy!” before walking away.

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