Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to rape and criminal sex act charges.
Wearing a navy suit, Weinstein appeared before a Manhattan judge after a grand jury last week charged him with raping a woman in a hotel in 2013 and forcing another to perform oral sex on him after a meeting in his office in 2004.
Weinstein said little other than “yes” when asked questions by State Supreme Court Justice James Burke.
His attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the fallen mogul intends “to vigorously defend his case.”
During the hearing, Brafman also apologized to the court for his repeated use of the phrase “casting couch” in speaking to the media and promised to “never use it again.”
Last month, after Weinstein’s arraignment last month, Brafman told reporters, “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood,” adding that “bad behavior is not on trial in this case.”
Previously, Brafman told The Times of London that the “casting couch” is not a crime, but rather a “choice.”
“If a woman decides that she needs to have sex with a Hollywood producer in order to advance her career and actually does it and finds the whole things offensive, that’s not rape,” he told the newspaper in March.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi argued that Brafman’s use of the term was “making light” of the serious nature of the charges.
Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax film studio, has been accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct. He has denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex.
The accusations against the powerful Hollywood producer touched off a worldwide reckoning against sexual harassment and sexual assault and led to the #MeToo movement.
Over the weekend, questions bubbled up over whether Weinstein’s attorney had a conflict of interest: A lawyer from his firm, Alex Spiro, allegedly tried to deceive a victim into giving the firm video and audio statements. The woman, Melissa Thompson, who claims Weinstein raped her in 2011, says she did not realize Weinstein was a client of Brafman’s at the time.
The allegations were made in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Brafman also on Tuesday denied claims that he had extracted information from victims and then discouraged them from coming forward, calling them “patently false.”