Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers said the movie mogul is not a sex trafficker, despite claims in a class-action lawsuit.
The lawyers in a court filing late Monday urged U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to toss out civil claims by women that claim Weinstein tried to coerce sex in return for movie roles or career enhancement.
Weinstein attorneys Elior Shiloh and Alan Dershowitz said the women’s lawyers are trying to stretch a law written to counteract modern-day slavery far beyond what Congress could have imagined.
“Try as plaintiffs might, they have failed to show that this is a sex trafficking case,” they wrote of the effort to rely on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. The law was written to criminalize and prevent slavery, servitude and human trafficking for commercial gain.
Using the law against Weinstein was an “utter perversion of the legislative intent behind the statute,” the lawyers said.
Two New York federal judges already have ruled that the sex trafficking statute can be used in suits against Weinstein, including one who did so on Monday.
Shiloh and Dershowitz said both judges ruled incorrectly on the issue.
In the 2017 class-action case before Hellerstein, Weinstein’s lawyers note that one of the women was meeting Weinstein to discuss her music company and her career while another was seeking to work as a nanny. A third, they said, wanted to discuss use of her company’s technology.
None of the women alleged that any money or anything of value was exchanged for an alleged sex act, the lawyers wrote.
They said the lawsuit “offers nothing but the allegation that they hoped a beneficial financial relationship would result from meeting with Mr. Weinstein.”
The lawyers said the women were only trying to use the sex-trafficking law in their lawsuit because they wanted to take advantage of its 10-year statute of limitations.
Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.