Model accuses former Harvey Weinstein associate of rape in lawsuit

A former model has filed a lawsuit claiming a one-time executive at movie studio Miramax raped her after luring her to a hotel with the promise of a meeting with the company's then-Chief Executive Harvey Weinstein.

The lawsuit was filed in New York state court on Thursday by Sara Ziff, who says the alleged assault by Fabrizio Lombardo, the former head of Miramax in Italy, took place in 2001 when she was 19 years old.

Ziff says she was an aspiring actress at the time and had attended a private movie screening in New York with Lombardo, who was in his early 40s. She claims the assault took place afterward in a hotel where she was told she would be meeting with Weinstein to discuss her career.

Miramax at the time was owned by Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), which sold the movie studio to an investment group in 2010.

The lawsuit names Weinstein, Miramax and Disney as defendants, claiming they were aware that Lombardo was a "danger to women whom he encountered at work," but did nothing to prevent him from victimizing her.

Disney and Miramax did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. Lombardo could not immediately be reached for comment.

Allegations that Weinstein sexually assaulted models and actresses helped fuel the #MeToo movement that began in 2017. He has been convicted of sex crimes in New York and California and sentenced to a combined 39 years in prison.

According to Ziff's lawsuit, Lombardo and Weinstein were "very close" and Weinstein was best man at Lombardo's 2003 wedding.

Imran Ansari, a lawyer for Weinstein, said in an email on Friday that Weinstein had no knowledge of or control over Lombardo's conduct.

"As such, Mr. Weinstein firmly denies that he has any liability for the alleged conduct of another," Ansari said.

Ziff is accusing Lombardo of sexual battery and gender-motivated violence, and accuses Weinstein and the companies of negligent supervision. She is seeking unspecified damages for lost earnings, mental anguish and emotional distress.

The lawsuit was brought under a New York law passed last year creating a one-year window for adult victims of alleged sexual abuse to file lawsuits that otherwise would have been barred because the cases were too old.