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US judge approves The Weinstein Company bankruptcy plan to pay $17 million to sex abuse complainants

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A Delaware judge in the United States has approved a $17 million (over Rs 123 crore) payout for women who have accused former movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, AFP reported on Tuesday. In March last year, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in a New York state prison for committing felony sex crimes over a number of years.

Delaware Judge Mary Walrath on Monday approved a revised bankruptcy plan of The Weinstein Company that provides $35 million, or over Rs 255 crore, to the creditor with roughly half of the amount going to the women, according to AP.

The $17 million amount has been allocated to a single sexual misconduct claims fund, which is down from about $25.7 million (over Rs 187 crore) assigned to three separate categories of sexual misconduct claims under the previous plan. An amount of $8.4 million (over Rs 61 crore) will be allocated to a liquidation trust for resolving non-sexual misconduct claims and $9.7 million (over Rs 70 crore) will be used to reimburse defense costs for former company officials other than Weinstein.

Those who have sued the former Hollywood producer for sexual misconduct will receive the full liquidated value of their claims if they agree to release Weinstein from all legal claims. If the person does not release Weinstein, but retains the option to sue him in another court will receive 25% of the value of their bankruptcy claim. During the hearing, the judge overruled the objections of several women who said that that the settlement prevented them from pursuing other legal claims.

The total money will be split between 37 women, and they are each likely to get six-figure sums. Fifty-five sexual misconduct claims were filed in the bankruptcy case. Thirty-nine claimants voted in favor of the bankruptcy plan and eight objected it.

In a court filing in December, lawyers of the women who voted against the plan had said it was unfair and coercive. “There is nothing fair about a plan that requires a rape victim to release her rapist in order to receive a full reward from the sexual misconduct fund,” they said. “There is nothing fair in re-victimising her financially by reducing her award by 75% if she does not agree to release her rapist.”

A Manhattan jury of seven men and five women had on February 25 found Weinstein guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. However, the jury acquitted Weinstein in two charges of predatory sexual assault. An actor, best known for her work in The Sopranos, had made these allegations.

The allegations of sexual assault were first reported by The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017, which led to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The movements sought to expose sexual harassment and assault, especially at the workplace.

Since the allegations against Weinstein became public, several people from within the American film industry and outside accused actors and directors such as Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner, Geoffrey Rush, Ryan Seacrest, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman of misconduct.

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