Six women have filed a class-action lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company. The lawsuit accuses company members of running a mafia-like “sexual enterprise” and covering up a pattern of sexual abuse under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act, which was originally used to prosecute mafia members.
“Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others,” the lawsuit reads. “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.”
Actresses Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller, Nannette Klatt and model Zoe Brock are the women behind the lawsuit. They outlined their aims in a joint statement released this 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. These individuals and companies chose to put ad revenue and movie sales, profits and ledgers before compassion and integrity. If money is the language they speak, then so be it. Let them learn that it is costlier to cover up assault, harassment, rape and violence. Let them learn the hard way: wallet first.”
This news came one day after the New York Times published an article entitled “Weinstein’s complicity machine” that implicates a number of companies and individuals in his crimes. The lawsuit will try Weinstein as a mob boss who employed an “army of spies” (as explored in another New York Times article) to silence his victims.
“We think these entities, the army of spies, as one article called it, were all facilitating and using wires and mails to orchestrate,” case attorney Steve Berman told The Daily Beast. “This A: allowed [Weinstein] to continue doing this over the years, and B: covered it up. When you’re using wires and mails — which are governed by the Racketeering Act — for the illegal purpose of raping and sexually harassing, that falls squarely within RICO.”
Importantly, this lawsuit is not just about Weinstein’s predatory behaviour but the people and the systems that enabled that behaviour. In their statement, the accusers said they hope the case exposes the culture that protected Weinstein for so long:
“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. Let’s finally do something about it.”