MANHATTAN (CN) – A New York case that could dramatically expand the definition of modern sex trafficking began in Cannes, France, where the British actress Kadian Noble says disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein invited her up to his hotel room.
Recalling this encounter now in a Manhattan federal courtroom, Noble casts the mogul’s pattern of luring young women like her to his hotel room as more than alleged sexual assault. Last year Noble sued Weinstein, his brother and their company under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
“It’s our position that Harvey Weinstein is a pimp in a tuxedo,” Noble’s attorney Jeffrey Herman argued in court Wednesday.
But Weinstein’s attorney Phyllis Kupferstein countered that statutes designed to combat human slavery were not meant for this.
“It cannot be the case that every time a woman has sex with a more powerful man in an effort to advance her career, and it doesn’t go the way that she likes, that she somehow becomes a sex-trafficking victim,” Kupferstein said.
Weinstein and Noble first met in early 2014 at an industry event in London. There Noble says the producer promised to advance both her film and modeling career through his executive assistant.
They met again months later in the lobby of Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes. As described in her complaint, Weinstein invited the woman up to his hotel room, gave her a massage and then called an unnamed producer who told Noble that “they would work” in the future so long as she could be “a good girl and do whatever he wished.”
After Weinstein groped her breasts, Noble says, she exclaimed: “No, Harvey, no!”
Weinstein then allegedly forced Noble into the bathroom, where she says the producer forced her to masturbate him as she pleaded with him to stop.
At Wednesday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said that whether the sex-trafficking allegations will proceed will largely depend on whether these acts fit the definition of a “commercial sex act.”
“Nobody has dealt with a factual situation like this under the statute?” Sweet asked, referring to sex-trafficking law.
Telling the judge he was correct, Kupferstein denied that there was any commercial sex act because Weinstein never promised to land Noble a film role.
“Her understanding about that is not a thing of value,” she said.
If the case is unprecedented, Weinstein’s accusers have brought the first cases on both coasts. Herman told reporters outside of court that he filed similar allegations on behalf of actress Dominique Huett in Los Angeles.
With nearly 30 years on the federal bench, Judge Sweet has fielded his share of high-profile sex-trafficking cases. Before the case settled this time last year, Sweet had been set to preside over the civil suit against disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile tied to two U.S. presidents: Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Sweet gave no indication Wednesday whether he will advance Noble’s suit against Weinstein, who has moved to dismiss the case.
Noble herself did not appear in court, and her attorney Herman said she has been “up and down” in London.
“She was really devastated, by these events,” he said.
He added that she fell into depression before the growth of “#MeToo” movement gave her a sense of hope.