Harvey Weinstein’s legal troubles worsened again on Wednesday when six women filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, for which they’re seeking class-action status.
The suit targets the former Hollywood mogul, his companies, his brother Robert and other named associates. It argues that their efforts to cover up or turn a blind eye to Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual abuse violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was originally designed to bring down mafia members.
Actresses Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller, Nannette Klatt and model Zoe Brock released a joint statement about the case on Wednesday.
“One thing is clear: to create a permanent change in the culture, we need to send a message to the powerful and wealthy individuals, companies and industries that fêted their Harvey Weinsteins, instead of protecting the victims,” they said.
The lawsuit brings 14 claims including battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision and retention.
“Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others,” the suit says. “Rather, over time, Weinstein enlisted the aid of the Complicit Producers, along with other firms and individuals, to facilitate and conceal his pattern of unwanted sexual conduct. This coalition of firms and individuals became part of the growing ‘Weinstein Sexual Enterprise,’ a RICO enterprise.”
Both The Weinstein Company and Miramax, which Weinstein co-founded, are named in the suit. Two individual defendants, investor Paul Tudor Jones and Weinstein board member Lance Maerov, were also named in a New York Times report about Weinstein’s “complicity machine,” published on Tuesday.
“Harvey Weinstein is a predator. Bob knew it. The board knew it. The lawyers knew it. The private investigators knew it. Hollywood knew it. We knew it. Now the world knows it,” the women said in their statement.
The proposed class-action suit could potentially represent “hundreds” of women, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys at Hagens Berman and the Armenta Law Firm. It follows another proposed class-action RICO suit aimed at several of the same defendants that was filed in November by Hagens Berman and Armenta in federal court in Los Angeles. A spokesperson for Hagens Berman noted that as the lawyers dug deeper, they saw the center of the Weinstein misdeeds was actually in New York and that the Los Angeles suit will be dismissed.
Either by name or anonymously, dozens of women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of misbehavior ranging from harassment to rape. Police in New York, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and London have launched investigations, and he has been booted from prominent industry organizations including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Oscars.
Weinstein has repeatedly denied the accusations against him.
The story has been updated with more detail on the link between the lawsuits.