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Wanting Jennifer Aniston Killed, Panic Email to Bezos: Documents Detail Days Leading to Weinstein's Ruin

New York Times

Last Updated: March 12, 2020, 09:43 IST

Harvey Weinstein on his way into court in New York, on February 24, 2020. (Sarah Blesener/The New York Times)

Harvey Weinstein on his way into court in New York, on February 24, 2020. (Sarah Blesener/The New York Times)

Previously sealed court documents reveal that in the days following reports about how he used his power to sexually assault women, Weinstein made a desperate plea for help in emails to two dozen influential people, including the billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos.

In the days following news reports about how he used his power to sexually assault women, Harvey Weinstein made a desperate plea for help in emails to two dozen influential people, including billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos.

That detail was revealed Monday in a trove of previously sealed court documents that offered a look into the days and weeks that followed the Hollywood mogul’s downfall.

Weinstein and his public relations team scrambled to craft a response to the allegations in October 2017. He promised to enter into a counseling program for sex addicts, and he did. “Allow me to resurrect myself with a second chance,” he wrote in one email.

A month later, in a scathing letter, Bob Weinstein called his brother a sexual predator and an abusive person who belonged in “hell.”

A few days after that, responding to a question from a gossip columnist, Harvey Weinstein alluded to having been sexually abused as a child. Then, a few weeks later, in a self-pitying, unpublished statement, he said he was suicidal.

The emails and other communications provided insight into the effort by Weinstein and his representatives to portray him as a troubled man who badly wanted to right his wrongs. They also showed his deeply fractured relationship with his brother and his attempts to silence those who sought to expose him.

In one email, Weinstein suggested that actress Jennifer Aniston — who he believed had complained about him — should be killed. And even as he endeavored to repair his reputation and excuse his behavior, his communications on the matter were often self-centered, unapologetic, and at times, patronizing.

Two weeks ago a jury in Manhattan found Weinstein, 67, guilty of third-degree rape and of first-degree criminal sexual act. The newly released records were not presented to the jury as evidence at trial.

Weinstein’s spokesman, Juda Engelmayer, declined to comment. Weinstein faces up to 29 years in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday.

Prosecutors have asked Justice James Burke to consider 36 “prior bad acts” when determining his sentence. Those include alleged sexual assaults against women spanning four decades for which Weinstein was never criminally charged. The earliest allegation comes from a woman who says he raped her on a business trip in 1978.

But Weinstein’s lawyers have argued in court papers that the allegations were never proven and should not be used to determine his punishment.

They also stressed that the producer was acquitted of the most serious charges against him: one count of first-degree rape, which requires the use of force, and two counts of predatory sexual assault, which requires the state to prove he committed serious sexual felonies against at least two women.

The defense lawyers have requested a prison term of five years, the least the law allows. Noting that the life expectancy of someone Weinstein’s age is about 12 years, they argued a longer term than five years “is likely to constitute a de facto life sentence.”

In all, six women testified about their sexual encounters with Weinstein during his trial in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The jury found Weinstein guilty of forcibly performing oral sex on a production assistant, Miriam Haley, in his Manhattan loft in 2006, and of raping an aspiring actress, Jessica Mann, at a midtown Manhattan hotel in 2013.

On the advice of his lawyers, Weinstein did not testify. The newly released court documents provided one possible reason that he opted not to take the stand. Manhattan prosecutors were prepared to call 11 more “prior bad act” witnesses to testify if he had.

Exposés published in The New York Times and The New Yorker in October 2017 opened the floodgates. Since then, more than 90 women, many of them actresses, have come forward with allegations that he sexually harassed or assaulted them.

The unsealed court documents show that within days of the appearance of the news reports, board members at The Weinstein Co. were looking to fire Weinstein.

Weinstein quickly mounted a last-ditch effort to save himself. He emailed a group of wealthy friends, including Ronald Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal; Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple; and Theodore Sarandos Jr., chief content officer of Netflix.

He also contacted Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and Democratic presidential candidate, and Bezos, who owns Amazon. Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Bloomberg, said, “Mike didn’t reply to the email.” Bezos did not respond to an email requesting comment on Tuesday.

“My board is thinking of firing me,” Weinstein wrote. “All I’m asking for is, let me take a leave of absence and get into heavy therapy and counseling whether it be in a facility or somewhere else, and allow me to resurrect myself with a second chance.”

He also sought advice from Anita Dunn, a veteran Democratic operative who is now the top adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.

“You should accept your fate graciously, and not seek to deny or discredit those who your behaviour has affected,” she wrote him.

But when Weinstein heard — incorrectly it turned out — that Aniston, the actress best known for her role on the television show “Friends,” had accused him of groping her, he wrote to his representative, “Jen Aniston should be killed.”

Aniston’s publicist Stephen Huvane denied that Weinstein ever assaulted her.

“He never got close enough to her to touch her,” Huvane said in a statement this week. “She has never been alone with him. We have no idea about the email, since it wasn’t sent to us, nor do we have any comment to make on it.”

The unsealed court papers said that prosecutors spoke to more than 100 people who knew or worked with Weinstein during their investigation.

Many described “bad acts” and boorish behavior, the court papers said. Weinstein, for instance, used a friend’s Social Security number without his permission to apply for and receive a passport in 1998, the papers said.

Several employees told prosecutors horror stories, the papers said. One said Weinstein demanded a massage in London in the 1990s, then grabbed her breasts.

Another said the producer ordered him out of a car and abandoned him while on a business trip in 2013, the papers said. A third said he was forced to procure prostitutes for Weinstein in 2007.

In late 2017, as the allegations continued to pile up, A.J. Benza a former New York Daily News gossip columnist, asked Weinstein if he had ever been a victim of sexual abuse himself, court documents said.

“Are you sure a rabbi or someone didn’t do things to you when you were a little boy?” Benza asked Weinstein, according to court documents. Benza added, “It takes a monster to make a monster.”

Weinstein, without providing details, responded in a text message, the documents showed, writing “It is a incident when I was a very young boy.” He then urged Benza to delete the message.

That same month, while in a rehabilitation clinic for his sex addiction, Weinstein called the entertainment gossip website, TMZ, according to an email from his brother.

Bob Weinstein was enraged and condemned his brother, Harvey, in an email, writing that he seemed incapable of understanding the pain he had caused over the years. Bob Weinstein also expressed disbelief that his brother “had consensual sex with all those poor victimized women.”

“U deserve a lifetime achievement award for the sheer savagery and immorality and inhumanness, for the acts u have perpetrated,” Bob Weinstein wrote.

“I pray there is a real hell,” he wrote. “That’s where u belong.”

Jan Ransom c.2020 The New York Times Company
first published:March 12, 2020, 09:06 IST
last updated:March 12, 2020, 09:43 IST