On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected a proposed $18.9 million class-action settlement for women who have alleged sexual abuse or workplace harassment by convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.
What We Know:
- U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein for the Southern District of New York, who laid out his objections during a virtual hearing, said the preliminary civil settlement would not be fair to the women whom Weinstein allegedly raped or sexually abused as it in no way adequately compensated them. Under the proposal, each woman would have been entitled to file a claim for up to $750,000. A sum attorneys representing alleged victims say doesn’t come close to covering the pain, suffering, and legal costs many of the women have faced.
- Hellerstein said it was unfair to include women who’d merely met Weinstein within the same settlement as those making more grievous charges. “Not every woman was captured in the same way,” Hellerstein said. “Your settlement would create inequality among all of those people.” Hellerstein also took issue with a plan to put aside money to help Weinstein and the board of his former studio, The Weinstein Company, pay legal defense costs. “The idea that Harvey Weinstein could get a defense fund ahead of the plaintiffs is obnoxious,” Hellerstein said at the virtual hearing.
- Attorneys for six of the women involved in the class-action suit commended the judge’s decision, expressing their gratification that “Judge Hellerstein swiftly rejected the one-sided proposal”. In a joint statement, the women said that “the settlement terms and conditions were unfair and should never be imposed on sexual assault survivors.” The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, which announced the tentative settlement on June 30, said in a statement that it will “review the decision and determine next steps”. A spokesperson for James said, “our office has been fighting tirelessly to provide these brave women with the justice they are owed and will continue to do so.”
- Weinstein would not have admitted any wrongdoing under the settlement. Weinstein’s attorney Imran H. Ansari declined to comment on the judge’s decision.
- Weinstein, 68, was convicted in February of third-degree rape of Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, and a count of criminal sexual act in the first degree against Mimi Haley, a former Project Runway production assistant. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison and is currently serving his sentence at a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.
- In all, more than 80 women have accused the Oscar-winning producer behind Pulp Fiction and The King’s Speech of sexual assault and harassment going back decades. The flood of allegations against Weinstein, first reported in October 2017, fueled the #MeToo movement, a global reckoning over sexual misconduct by powerful men in high-profile industries.
Weinstein continues to deny all allegations against him and contends he has never forced anyone to engage in any sex acts. He is appealing the New York verdict while also facing rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles.