By Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Film producer Harvey Weinstein was expected to surrender to authorities in New York on Friday, months after he was toppled from Hollywood's most powerful ranks by scores of women accusing him of sexual assault, a person familiar with the case said.
Weinstein's spokesman Juda Engelmayer and Weinstein's lawyer Benjamin Brafman both declined to comment. The imminent criminal charging of Weinstein, which was first reported by the New York Daily News, follows a months-long investigation, including by the Manhattan district attorney's office.
A person familiar with the case confirmed the report to Reuters on condition of anonymity. The New York Times and other news outlets also reported Weinstein was expected to surrender.
More than 70 women have accused the co-founder of the Miramax studio and The Weinstein Co of sexual misconduct spanning decades, including rape. The allegations, first reported by the New York Times and the New Yorker last year, gave rise to the #MeToo movement in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in business, government and entertainment.
Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Weinstein will be charged over an allegation by at least one accuser, Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress who told the New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to give him oral sex in 2004, the Times and Daily News reported. The exact nature of the charges being brought by Manhattan prosecutors was unclear on Thursday afternoon.
The New York Police Department and the district attorney's office declined to comment on the case.
KEEPING THEIR DISTANCE
Entertainment industry heavyweights have distanced themselves from Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most powerful men, since the accusations became public. The board of the Weinstein Co fired him and the company itself filed for bankruptcy in March. In 2017, he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the Oscars.
A former fixture in the most elite entertainment circles of Manhattan and Los Angeles, Weinstein has since been seen spending time in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the New York Times said he had been seeking treatment for sex addiction.
London's Metropolitan Police have said they are also investigating an allegation of sexual assault against Weinstein, while prosecutors in Los Angeles said in February they were reviewing three accusations of sexual assault against him.
Weinstein's lawyer Brafman said in a May court filing that federal prosecutors in New York had opened a separate criminal investigation into the allegations.
Actress Ashley Judd last month sued Weinstein, saying that he cost her a part in 1998 for the film "The Lord of the Rings" after she rejected his sexual advances, charges that Weinstein has denied.
Actress Rose McGowan, among the first in Hollywood to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, said in a statement on Thursday that his alleged victims were now "one step closer to justice."
"May this give hope to all victims and survivors everywhere that are telling their truths," she said.
Italian actress Asia Argento, who has accused Weinstein of raping her at the Cannes film festival in 1997 when she was 21, reacted to Thursday's reports with a one-word Twitter post: "BOOM."
Other film stars who have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct include Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek.
Brafman, Weinstein's lawyer, is known for representing high-profile criminal defendants, including pop star Michael Jackson and Martin Shkreli, the former drug company executive.
In 2011, Brafman represented Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, over charges, which were eventually dropped, that he sexually assaulted a New York City hotel maid.
Since 2006, there has been no statute of limitations in New York for rape or aggravated sex abuse in the first degree. Crimes for which the statute had not expired on June 23, 2006, were included when the law changed, meaning crimes as early as 2001 can still be prosecuted.
"New York, which used to have some of the shortest state of limitations for rape cases, caught up with the modern world in 2006," said former Manhattan prosecutor Marc Scholl. "Sex assailants can no longer escape their crimes because victims were afraid to speak."
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Dan Trotta, Joseph Ax, Karen Freifeld and Peter Szekely in New York and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; editing by Grant McCool)