A judge on Tuesday allowed a lawsuit to proceed that accuses Harvey Weinstein of violating a federal sex-trafficking law by sexually assaulting a model at a hotel room in Cannes.
The suit, filed by Kadian Noble, is one of the more unusual legal claims to arise from the Weinstein scandal. Noble alleges that Weinstein lured her to his room at the Le Majestic Hotel in 2014 on the pretext of an audition, and then groped her and forced her to help him masturbate. Her attorneys alleged that the incident was tantamount to forced prostitution.
Weinstein’s attorneys sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the alleged incident did not fit the definition of a “commercial sex act” under the trafficking statute, because she was not offered a “thing of value” in exchange for sex.
But in his ruling, Judge Robert W. Sweet declined to dismiss the suit, finding that while Noble’s claims venture into “uncharted waters” for the statute, they are not implausible.
“For an aspiring actress, meeting a world-renowned film producer carries value, in and of itself,” Sweet wrote. “The opportunity, moreover, for the actress to sit down with that producer in a private meeting to review her film reel and discuss a promised film role carries value that is career-making and life-changing. The contention, therefore, that Noble was given nothing of value — that the expectation of a film role, a modeling meeting, of ‘his people’ being ‘in touch with her’ had no value — does not reflect modern reality.”
Sweet did dismiss allegations against Bob Weinstein, finding no factual allegations that he was aware of or facilitated his brother’s alleged sexual misconduct.
Harvey Weinstein’s attorney, Phyllis Kupferstein, said that he would appeal the ruling.
“This decision is just the first round, and merely finds that plaintiff has alleged enough to proceed with her case,” she said in a statement. “It does not mean that there is merit to the case. We will seek to appeal the decision. We believe these claims are not legally or factually supported, and ultimately will not be sustained.”
Sweet must first certify the opinion in order for it to be appealed. In an interview, Kupferstein said that the judge’s reasoning could have far-reaching implications for men in other fields.
“You have to start thinking about what other situations could you extend his logic to,” she said. “If a law firm recruiting partner has sex with a law student, is that sex trafficking?”