For Weinstein victim, relief and vindication

WESTPORT — Like many around the country, Sarah Ann Masse watched the newscasts as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was escorted into a New York City court on May 25 to face sexual assault charges and five days later, when a Manhattan grand jury indicted Weinstein on charges he forced a woman to perform oral sex and raped another.

For Masse, it was both a relief and a vindication of her own claims that the movie producer molested her in his former Westport home in 2008.

“Harvey Weinstein’s arrest is an important step on the path to justice for myself and all of his victims. But it is not where this ends,” she told Hearst Connecticut Media. “This is a systemic issue, and this is one step in the right direction in a series to move us forward. Harvey must be sentenced and pay for his heinous crimes. Those who surrounded him, supported him, were complicit in and facilitated his crimes must also be brought to justice.”

The charges stem from encounters with two of the dozens of women — some famous, some not — who have accused him of sexual misdeeds. The rape charge involves a woman who has not come forward publicly; the other is a onetime aspiring actress who was among his first accusers.

Masse’s Westport encounter with Weinstein came in 2008, when she was working as a nanny as she pursued an acting career in New York City. Her agency informed her of a job babysitting Weinstein’s three children from his first marriage.

After about a month of interviews with Weinstein’s assistants, Masse said she was told Weinstein wanted to meet her. The assistant scheduled the interview to take place at Weinstein’s then-home on Beachside Avenue in Westport.

In her federal lawsuit she filed against Weinstein last year, Masse states she drove to Weinstein’s home. When she arrived, he opened the door in his boxer shorts and an undershirt. Thomas assumed Weinstein had forgotten about the interview and that he would excuse himself to go change. But he did not, the suit states.

Weinstein then proceeded to conduct the “interview” in his underwear.

At the conclusion of the interview, still clad only in his underclothes, Weinstein grabbed Masse and pulled her tight against his body, the lawsuit states.

“The hug was uncomfortably close, and lasted too long. She did not know how to get out of his embrace,” the suit continues. “Weinstein then told Masse that he loved her. Thomas felt unsafe and sexualized. She was afraid to try and pull away or push him off or even ask him to stop because she feared he may become violent.”

Thomas left feeling upset, shaken, afraid and disrespected. When she returned home, she told the story to her mother, the lawsuit states.

A few days later, Weinstein’s assistant informed Masse that she did not get the job because she was an actor.

“On information and belief, the reason Thomas was not hired was because she did not respond to Weinstein’s propositions,” the suit states.

Masse is not the only woman to accuse Weinstein of sexual harrasment in Westport. Actress Lupita Nyong’o published a New York Times op-ed in October in which she wrote while she was a student at the Yale School of Drama, Weinstein invited her to Westport, where he took her to a local restaurant, pressured her to drink alcohol, then took her to his Westport home and said he wanted to take his pants off in front of her against her consent.

Weinstein has consistently denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Friday he would fight to get the charges dismissed.

Weinstein was released on $1 million bail, with constant electronic monitoring and a ban on traveling beyond New York and Connecticut. The top charges against him carry the potential for up to 25 years in prison.

He is also accused of confining a woman in a Manhattan hotel room and raping her in 2013, according to a court complaint.

The criminal sex act charge stems from a 2004 encounter between Weinstein and Lucia Evans, a then-aspiring actress who told The New Yorker magazine he forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting in his office.

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing, and authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Brafman has said Weinstein was a “principal target” of an investigation being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Lt. Jillian Cabana of the Westport Police Department told the Westport News on May 31 the department has not opened an investigation into any of Weinstein’s alleged sexual harrasment or assault in town.

“No one has filed a complaint with us. In Connecticut, you have to have a victim come forward in order to move forward with an investigation,” Cabana said.

Weinstein is no longer an official resident of Westport. In February, he sold his properties at 26 and 28 Beachside Ave. to town resident Andrew Bentley for $16 million. Town Clerk documents show Bentley has submitted an application for permits to demolish Weinstein’s former Westport homes. No decision has been made on the fate of the homes, or the fate of Weinstein’s case in New York court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.