(Adds comments from plaintiffs’ lawyers, case background)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, July 13 (Reuters) - Six women who claim they were sexually abused by Harvey Weinstein urged a U.S. judge on Monday to reject an $18.9 million settlement between the disgraced movie producer, the board of his former studio, and other accusers.
The settlement announced on June 30 would end litigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James and separate class-action litigation, and permit accusers to claim between $7,500 and $750,000 each.
But in a Manhattan federal court filing, the six women complained that the accord “absolved” Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein and the board of liability, and created a $15.2 million windfall to help them cover defense costs.
They said this contrasted with the $11.2 million that accusers would receive, after deducting legal fees and costs, and shielded the defendants’ insurers from big payouts.
The settlement is “a cruel hoax” and among “the most one-sided and unfair class settlements in history,” the filing said. “The main winners ... are Harvey Weinstein, Robert Weinstein, and the ultra-wealthy former directors of The Weinstein Co.”
James’ office and a lawyer for Weinstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Gerald Maatman, a lawyer for the Weinstein Cos, declined to comment.
The settlement requires approval by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein.
In 2010, he initially rejected a settlement for workers who suffered health problems after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, saying he would not approve an accord “based on fear or ignorance.”
Weinstein, 68, is serving a 23-year prison term following his Feb. 24 conviction for sexually assaulting a former production assistant and raping a onetime aspiring actress.
He is appealing, and still faces rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles.
The guilty verdict was a milestone for the #MeToo movement, which starting in late 2017 inspired women to accuse hundreds of powerful men in business, entertainment, media, politics and other fields of sexual misconduct (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Marguerita Choy)