RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has surrendered to the New York City Police Department this morning. He's facing sexual assault charges. Weinstein was already famous in Hollywood before he became the catalyst of the #MeToo era. He had spent decades at the top of the entertainment world. Then multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations cost him his reputation and his company. Now they may cost him his freedom, as well. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has been following the story, and she joins us now. Hi, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: There have been so many allegations against Weinstein in recent months. What do we know about the cases that have actually prompted these criminal charges?
BLAIR: So what we know - and this is through reporting from The New York Times and The New Yorker - is the Manhattan DA is bringing charges on behalf of two women. One case carries charges of first-degree rape and third-degree rape. In that one, the alleged victim's name is being withheld. In the other, Weinstein is charged with a first-degree criminal sex act. The alleged victim in that case is Lucia Evans. She was one of the first to come - to go public with allegations. Evans told The New Yorker magazine last fall that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Manhattan office, where he'd invited her on the pretext of talking career opportunities. And at the time - this was 2004 - Evans was an aspiring actress still in college.
MARTIN: We have seen so many men lose their jobs in the #MeToo movement, not many criminal charges. So this moment is different, isn't it?
BLAIR: This is a big moment. And, you know, we don't know what's going to happen with the trial. And I'm sure it will be long and drawn out. But for so many women, it was Harvey Weinstein. It was the allegations against him. It was all of the reporting around it that really unleashed the #MeToo movement or at least helped unleash the movement in a very big way. You had Gwyneth Paltrow. You had Ashley Judd, you know, marquee actresses coming forward. And that, as a result, sort of let it be OK for women around the country who had similar allegations to come forward. So it's a big moment.
MARTIN: Why has it taken so long to get to the point of criminal charges, considering the scope of all the allegations against him?
BLAIR: Well, according to The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow, the Manhattan DA took all this time because they wanted to secure the strongest case they could. Rape and sexual assault cases are notoriously hard to prove in court. There are often no direct witnesses or physical evidence. And that's especially true if a victim doesn't seek help right away. Also, Farrow makes a point of this - it took this long because Evans - Lucia Evans - had to take that pretty bold step of coming forward and pressing charges, knowing the toll these cases can take on a victim, especially a case like this one, which is going to be surrounded by enormous publicity. Farrow quotes investigators, saying they gave her the time to arrive at that place where she could - you know, felt comfortable confronting all that.
MARTIN: So what happens now? I mean, we should point out Weinstein still maintains he's done nothing wrong, right?
BLAIR: Correct. His lawyer calls the allegations entirely without merit.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Elizabeth Blair for us this morning. Elizabeth, thank you so much.
BLAIR: OK. Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.