New Weinstein RICO Suit Adds Political Intrigue

MANHATTAN (CN) – Three women, one of whom says Harvey Weinstein raped her, joined the lengthy list Friday of accusers bringing federal anti-racketeering charges against the indicted producer.

Former entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein, center, arrives at a New York City police station on May 25, 2018, to face criminal charges in a months-long investigation of allegations that he sexually assaulted women. The officials say the charges relate to related to a former actress, Lucia Evans, who said Weinstein assaulted her in his New York offices in 2004. (APPhoto/Andres Kudacki)

As with a RICO case filed six months ago in New York, attorneys at Hagens Berman are representing Weinstein’s accusers in the latest class action.

The 90-page suit comes in the same New York court where Weinstein was indicted  Wednesday on charges that he forced one woman to perform oral sex in his Tribeca office and that he raped a second woman at a hotel.

In addition to the Weinstein Company and its former owner team of siblings Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the latest complaint takes aim at the Walt Disney Co., as the parent of the Weinsteins’ former studio, Miramax, and nine current and former members of the Weinstein Co.’s Board of Directors.

“Weinstein’s widespread sexual misconduct did not occur without the help of others,” the complaint states. “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.”

Though the Weinstein board is one of five groups accused in the complaint of furthering the conspiracy, none of the other groups are named as defendants.

They include lawyers and casting directors, as well as corporate-intelligence firms and and journalists.

Harvey Weinstein, right, appears at his arraignment with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, in Manhattan Criminal Court on May 25, 2018, in New York. Weinstein is charged with two counts of rape and one count of criminal sexual act. He was released on $1 million bail. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News via AP, Pool)

Chief among these nonparty individuals is attorney Benjamin Brafman, the most public face of the Weinstein defense since the allegations came to a head last year.

Named plaintiff Melissa Thompson, who claims that Weinstein raped her at a hotel room in 2011, says she inadvertently shared her visual and audio evidence with Brafman and fellow attorney Alex Spiro after they “used deceptive tactics to cause her to believe that Brafman and Spiro were working for the victims.”

Brafman said in a statement Friday that he never represented Thompson and never met with her or any of the other women named in the lawsuit. Clarifying his connection to the other lawyer, Brafman said Spiro was “one of many associates and left this firm in or about September 2017.”

Weinstein’s public downfall began on Oct. 5, 2017, with a critical report in the New York Times. A week later, according to the complaint, Thompson got a call from a mutual friend, Paolo Zampolli, who told allegedly urged her to reach out to Brafman.

“All of these girls are getting together and they are going to be represented by Brafman,” Zampolli said, as quoted in the complaint, which notes that Thompson recorded the call.

Thompson says Zampolli sent an email on Oct. 13 that introduced her to Spiro as an attorney at Brafman Law: His email address on the message was aspiro@braflaw.com.

“In the next few days, Spiro purported to interview Thompson for the purpose of analyzing her claim against Weinstein,” the complaint states. “Thompson understood throughout the conversations and correspondence that everything she sent Spiro was confidential and for the purpose of seeking legal advice.”

Thompson says she texted Spiro on Nov. 8 after Weinstein publicly announced that Brafman was heading up his defense team.

“What? No,” Spiro replied, as quoted in the complaint. “I don’t work there. Nor do I rep anyone involved.”

Neither Spiro nor Zampolli are parties to the complaint.

Spiro, who is now with the firm Quinn Emmanuel, denied in a statement Friday that he ever represented Thompson. “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,” he said. “I never have and I never would represent Harvey Weinstein.”

Brafman also denied that Spiro ever met with Weinstein, “nor did he have any responsibility whatsoever in connection with our representation of Mr Weinstein in any matter.”

“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,” Brafman added.

With regard to Weinstein’s indictment, Brafman said he would “vigorously defend” his client and ask a court to dismiss it. He called the allegations “unsupported” and reiterated that Weinstein strongly denies them.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe for dinner at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club on April 18, 2018, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A website for Zampolli notes that he has received ambassadorships in 2012 and 2013. The New York Times identified Zampolli in a 2016 article as former modeling agent who introduced Donald Trump to his now wife, Melania, in 1998 at a party he hosted at the Kit Kat Club.

It was Zampolli who discovered the Slovenian-born Melania, and he also secured her visa to the United States, the Times reported.

Friday’s complaint against Weinstein says Zampolli touched on his political connections when he spoke on the phone with Thompson in October 2017.

“On this call, Zampolli described a feud he had, pitting a team of Hillary Clinton and Harvey Weinstein against a team of Zampolli and Donald Trump,” the complaint states. “Zampolli described threats Weinstein had purportedly made against Zampolli and his family. Zampolli described a campaign of fear apparently designed (for purposes of the call) to make Thompson believe that Zampolli was on her side against Weinstein.”

The complaint also says Thompson was not the only one to get this pitch.

“With at least three different victims, Weinstein and/or an attorney from Brafman
sought the assistance of Ambassador Paolo Zampolli, a mutual acquaintance of the women,” the complaint states. “Zampolli contacted each of the women via telephone … to persuade them to contact Brafman’s office under the guise that Brafman was representing several female victims against Weinstein and would represent them.”

The Times noted Friday that it reviewed copies of the introduction emails, but that Zampolli told it he had no recollection of them. Zampolli denied making the comments to Thompson specifically, as well, and called her claim about a recording “fake news.”

Zampolli offered a quick comment by email: “The NYT is the KING ONE OF FAKE NEWS.”

Representatives for the Weinstein Company did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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