NEW YORK – Disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein sued his former company, as he sought access to emails, his personnel file, and other records he contends may exonerate him from multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in Delaware, seeks access to the records, which are vital to the Oscar-winner’s defense from the avalanche of harassment claims made against him, Weinstein’s lawyers argued.
Last October 5, The New York Times published a story of women – among them were esteemed actresses – accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. Three days later Weinstein was fired from his own company, The Weinstein Co.
His lawsuit asserted that if he is able to obtain the records, he may use them to pursue a wrongful termination case or other legal actions against the company.
The lawsuit noted the numerous legal troubles facing Weinstein and his former company, including criminal investigations, a civil lawsuit that alleges The Weinstein Co. knew of decades of harassment allegations lodged against the producer, and a civil rights investigation launched by the New York attorney general.
“Mr. Weinstein believes that his email account — which is the primary, if not only, account he used during the term of his employment by the company — will contain information exonerating him, and therefore the company, from claims that may be asserted against him or the company. Further, Mr. Weinstein is in a unique position to offer insight, and further explain and contextualize his emails,” the lawsuit read.
Weinstein urged the judge to expedite a ruling on his case.
A representative for The Weinstein Co. did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment.
The lawsuit came hours after actress Ashley Judd described in her first on-camera testimony about Weinstein’s sexual advances toward her.
In “Good Morning America” aired on Thursday, Judd recounted anew that she was a rising young actress two decades ago when she met the powerful film mogul at his the hotel suite for what she thought would be a business meeting. She said she managed to escape the indecent situation by making a deal.
Judd’s account of the incident three weeks ago in The New York Times was a key factor in Weinstein’s downfall, and opened the door to an avalanche of harassment allegations against Weinstein and other personalities, and a broader cultural discussion of how women are treated in the workplace and beyond.
In the Good Morning America interview, Judd said the business meeting in Weinstein’s hotel room turned into a negotiation not about work, but about things the producer wanted the actress to do to him.
Weinstein first offered to give her a massage, then, when she demurred, asked her to give him one, she said.
“I fought with this volley of no’s,” she said.
Then she made a “deal.” She said she agreed to submit to him, but only “when I win an Oscar in one of your movies — OK?”
“When you get NOMINATED,” Weinstein counter-offered.
“And I said, ‘No. When I WIN an Oscar.’ And then I just fled.”
Judd said she remains of two minds about how she handled the shocking situation.
“Am I proud of that? The part that shames myself says, ‘No.’ The part of me that understands the way shame works says, ‘That was absolutely brilliant. Good job, kid, you got out of there. Well done!'”
Judd said a couple of years after the hotel encounter she was seated across from Weinstein at a dinner. She said he brought up “that little agreement we made,” and claimed he was “looking around for the material.”
Then he looked at her and said, “You know, Ashley, I’m going to let you out of that little agreement that we made.”
Judd said by then “I had come into my own, I had come into my power, I had found my voice. And I said, ‘You do that, Harvey. You DO that.’
“And he has spat my name at me ever since.”
Writer and director James Toback, an Oscar-nominee for his “Bugsy” screenplay, has also been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than 200 women since a Los Angeles Times article broke the stories of 38 women last Sunday.
On Thursday, actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams told Vanity Fair about encounters with Toback early in their careers. Blair alleged that Toback humped her leg and implied that he would have her killed if she told anyone.
NBC suspended Mark Halperin on Thursday after CNN reported on the claims of five women, who said the political journalist harassed them while he was an ABC News executive. Halperin, who co-authored the best-seller “Game Change,” apologized on Wednesday for what he called inappropriate behavior. And former Fox News host and best-selling author Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out of the network in April after sexual harassment allegations, saw his literary agency cut ties with him.
Fallout continues to Weinstein and the film production company he co-founded. The Lexus luxury vehicle brand said on Thursday it was ending its partnership with The Weinstein Co., which included sponsorship and product placement in company’s “Project Runway” television show.
Weinstein has been fired from the company he co-founded with his brother and is now facing criminal investigations in London, New York and Los Angeles.
ABC is spreading its interview with Judd throughout its programming on Thursday, with segments expected to air during its nightly newscast and its “Nightline” late-night show. /kga