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A federal judge in New York has given Kadian Noble the green light to pursue a sex trafficking claim against Harvey Weinstein. However, the judge has dismissed Bob Weinstein from the lawsuit because she failed to sufficiently allege his participation.
Noble is suing over an assault she alleges experiencing in 2014 in Cannes. The aspiring actress says Harvey Weinstein lured her to a hotel room under the guise of reviewing a film reel sampling her acting work. Once in the hotel room, Weinstein allegedly put his hands on her, pulled her shirt down, forced her legs open and began masturbating. Noble says Weinstein told her that work would be coming her way, but that no film role materialized. She’s now claiming his acts are in violation of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.
Weinstein argued that the complaint should be dismissed because “not every alleged sexual assault constitutes a federal violation” and that her claim, if allowed, “would unfairly expand the federal sex trafficking statute to all sexual activity occurring between adults in which one party holds a superior position of power and influence.”
He further asserted that there was no “commercial sex act” here as required under the statute because nothing of value was exchanged.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet acknowledges that the government has historically prosecuted such acts as child prostitution, torture and child pornography under the statute, but adds in the opinion, “Where, as here, a broad statute has a plain and unambiguous meaning, it ought to be interpreted broadly.”
Sweet points to how the statute covers acts of enticement.
“What proved to be empty promises of a film role and a modeling meeting were more than enough to arouse ‘hope and desire’ in Noble, an aspiring actress and model,” writes the judge, nodding to the Merriam-Webster definition of enticement. “The allegations therefore plausibly allege the element of ‘enticement.'”
Sweet then adds that the pattern of behavior alleged on Weinstein’s part could establish a knowledge and understanding of fraudulent means to entice Noble.
As for whether there was a “commercial sex act” as defined in the statute, Sweet writes, “The contention… that Noble was given nothing of value — that the expectation of a film role, of a modeling meeting, of ‘his people’ being ‘in touch with her’ had no value — does not reflect modern reality. Even if the prospect of a film role, of a modeling meeting, and of a continued professional relationship with TWC were not ‘things of value’ sufficient to satisfy commercial aspect of the sex act definition, Noble’s reasonable expectation of receiving those things in the future, based on Harvey’s repeated representations that she would, is sufficient.”
In the decision, Sweet then struggles with whether the described misconduct fits the definition of a “sex act” with some recognition that consensual activity could be implicated.
Nevertheless, Noble moves ahead to the discovery stage. That raises the prospect that Weinstein could soon urge the court to halt the proceedings pending the criminal action he faces in New York. Otherwise, as Weinstein has teased in other court battles, the movie mogul might have to assert Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Sweet also examines the allegations as they pertain to Bob Weinstein, who co-ran The Weinstein Co. “Because guilt, or in this case liability, cannot be established by association alone, Plaintiff must allege specific conduct that furthered the sex trafficking venture,” writes the judge.
Although Noble alleged that Bob Weinstein “facilitated” and “paid for” his brother’s travel to Cannes, plus “paid for prior settlements of claims made by women against” Harvey Weinstein, the judge concludes that all falls short of pleading standards. The judge writes, “What is missing are factual allegations that link Robert’s actions to Harvey’s 2014 conduct toward Noble.”
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