Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged with rape and other abuse charges yesterday, months after allegations of sexual violence and harassment toppled the once-powerful Hollywood mogul.

Weinstein, 66, was charged with rape, criminal sex act, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct for cases involving two women. "This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually," the prosecutor, Assistant District Atty. Joan llluzzi, said as she read the charges in New York Criminal Court.

Harvey Weinstein at his arraignment with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, in Manhattan Criminal Court. Photo / AP
Harvey Weinstein at his arraignment with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, in Manhattan Criminal Court. Photo / AP

Weinstein's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said to reporters that he plans to plead not guilty - and his legal team will fight to dismiss the charges. "These charges, we believe that they are constitutionally flawed," he said. "We believe that at the end of the process Mr Weinstein will be exonerated."

Weinstein was charged with three felonies - rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act in the first degree - "for forcible sexual acts against two women in 2013 and 2004, respectively," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.'s office said Friday morning.

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In the complaint, a New York Police detective stated that in 2004, Weinstein forced a woman to engage in oral sex with him, physically shoving her head downward. The detective also said that in 2013, Weinstein kept a woman in a room against her will "and engaged in sexual intercourse with informant by forcible compulsion," even though she had "clearly expressed her lack of consent to the act."

After his arraignment on yesterday morning, Weinstein posted US$1 million bail and surrendered his passport. He will wear an electronic monitoring device at all times, and face other travel restrictions.

"Today's charges reflect significant progress in this active, ongoing investigation," Vance said in a statement after the arraignment. "I thank the brave survivors who have come forward, and my office's prosecutors who have worked tirelessly on this investigation." Vance also urged other survivors to contact them.

"We got you, Harvey Weinstein, we got you," actor Rose McGowan tweeted, as Weinstein sat in court. McGowan accused Weinstein of rape, one of dozens of Hollywood women to accuse the producer of sexual misconduct. Asia Argento, who has also accused Weinstein of rape, tweeted a live feed of Weinstein's "perp walk" yesterday morning.

"Today Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell. We, the women, finally have real hope for justice," Argento wrote in another tweet.

Weinstein made no comment as he walked into the 1st Precinct police station in Manhattan at about 7.30am, to surrender to authorities. About an hour later, he left the police station in handcuffs, to be driven to court.

The disgraced producer's walk into the courthouse was a grim inversion of the red carpets he'd walk at the height of his power. Handcuffed and silent, he ignored a a lineup of reporters snapping photos and shouting questions.

Weinstein was taken to the courtroom about a half mile away for arraignment. With his arm held by a detective, Weinstein was brought in a back entrance of the courtroom and walked in a half-circle; he dazedly looked around the room and appeared to mouth the word "wow" as he entered.

Harvey Weinstein is escorted into court after surrendering to face rape and other charges from encounters with two women. Photo / AP
Harvey Weinstein is escorted into court after surrendering to face rape and other charges from encounters with two women. Photo / AP

Brafman could soon be seen carrying Weinstein's passport, which he would later hand over to Illuzzi in court.

Weinstein's arrest came months after Vance's office reportedly launched an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. Police officials said the arrest and charges stemmed from a joint investigation between the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

For a Hollywood community that is accustomed to Weinstein as a powerful figure - the producer who helped the art house go mainstream with hits such as The English Patient, The King's Speech and Pulp Fiction - the sight of him being led around a courtroom was a jarring one. Wearing a dark jacket draped over a baby-blue sweater, he seemed unsure on his feet and offered a mile-long stare as he turned to face the gallery before the proceeding.

As he exited the courtroom, however, he seemed to spring to life, even backslapping a man in the gallery who stood up to talk to him, saying "hey" to the person as they walked out together.

Law enforcement officials did not immediately identify the two women who Weinstein is charged with attacking. Lucia Evans, a onetime aspiring actress who has said Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 2004 at his Manhattan office, told the New Yorker on Thursday that she was pressing charges against Weinstein, saying: "At a certain point, you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind."

Weinstein had been a powerful force in the entertainment world until last year's series of investigative stories from the Times and the New Yorker that detailed accusations of sexual misconduct made by several women.

Since then, scores more have come forward to claim Weinstein used his status to sexually assault and harass them. The revelations sparked a broader reckoning with sexism in Hollywood that has since touched other industries.

Several other powerful men in media and entertainment, facing accusations of a range of sexual misconduct, have retreated from the spotlight, but few have faced criminal prosecution. (Bill Cosby, convicted last month on three counts of sexual assault, is perhaps the most notable exception.)

"Sending love to all my sisters today who stood up against a monster," tweeted actress Mira Sorvino, who accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and of trying to derail her career after she refused his advances. "So many emotions … I am proud of and grateful to you all."

"Today is a day I never thought I'd see when I came forward 22 months ago alone," former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who sued network founder Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016, tweeted on Friday. "Thank you for listening to women."

Earlier this year, a group of women in the entertainment industry formed the Time's Up, an organisation made up of several A-listers and aimed at combating sexual harassment against all kinds of workers, including housekeepers and farmworkers.

"Today a man whose actions were so egregious that they spawned a global reckoning has been taken into custody," the organisation said in a statement. "Harvey Weinstein shattered the lives of an untold number of women. We stand with them, and remain in solidarity with women everywhere who have faced unsafe and abusive workplaces."

Harvey Weinstein arrives at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse in handcuffs after being arrested and processed on a number of charges including rape. Photo / Getty
Harvey Weinstein arrives at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse in handcuffs after being arrested and processed on a number of charges including rape. Photo / Getty

Authorities in several cities have also launched criminal investigations into Weinstein. Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police have submitted a total of fives cases for review by prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors have also started an investigation into the sexual-abuse allegations, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Prosecutors made clear Friday that the legal jeopardy facing Weinstein does not end with these charges, saying that they are continuing to investigate allegations of other crimes involving other victims.

Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, had been under fire over his office's handling of a 2015 case against Weinstein. Critics accused Vance - who was re-elected to a third term last year - of possible conflicts of interest with the movie mogul.

The district attorney has repeatedly said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Weinstein in a 2015 case involving model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, whose allegations were detailed in the explosive New Yorker piece by Ronan Farrow. The New Yorker also published audio, obtained during a 2015 New York police sting, in which Weinstein admits to Gutierrez that he groped her as he tried to persuade her to join him in his hotel room.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, in March directed the state's attorney general to review the 2015 case, citing "questions about the handling" of it by Vance. "It is critical not only that these cases are given the utmost attention but also that there is public confidence in the handling of these cases." (The attorney general at the time, Eric Schneiderman, resigned earlier this month following assault claims against him from four women first published in the New Yorker.)

Vance called that review "an unwarranted intrusion."

Weinstein's next court date is July 30.