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Former model accuses onetime Harvey Weinstein associate of sexual assault

Harvey Weinstein and Fabrizio Lombardo at the 64th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2007 in Venice, Italy.
Pascal Le Segretain
/
Getty Images
Harvey Weinstein and Fabrizio Lombardo at the 64th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2007 in Venice, Italy.

In New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, a former model filed a lawsuit alleging that she was raped by Fabrizio Lombardo, a onetime associate of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The suit also named Weinstein, Disney, and Miramax as defendants, saying they "were negligent or recklessly indifferent to the harm that Lombardo inflicted."

The suit was filed by Sara Ziff, who founded Model Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization for workers in the fashion industry. She alleges that in 2001, when she was 19, she was raped by Lombardo after a film screening. "Mr. Lombardo invited Ms. Ziff to go to a nearby hotel with him on the pretense that they would be joined by Harvey Weinstein and another young woman who attended the screening," the suit contends, noting that Ziff thought it would be a business opportunity as a model and aspiring actress.

The lawsuit says that instead it was "a trap set by Mr. Lombardo to get Ms. Ziff alone and rape her."

At the time, Lombardo was an executive with Miramax, the film studio co-founded by Weinstein. The former movie mogul is currently serving 39 years in prison for sex crimes in New York and California. NPR has reached out to Lombardo's representatives, but has not been able to get any comment.

According to The New York Times, Ziff filed a police report in 2017, but no charges were filed. NPR hasn't been able to independently verify what the police report alleged. She told the Times she had been hesitant to come forward before now. "I couldn't even talk to anyone about it for the first few years, let alone imagine taking legal action," said Ziff, now 40 years old.

Ziff says she reconsidered when the Adult Survivor's Act passed last year. The legislation extended the time adult sex crime victims can bring civil claims that would otherwise have expired under the statute of limitations.

Weinstein once credited Lombardo with saving his life and reportedly served as best man at Lombardo's 2003 wedding. Lombardo was head of Miramax Italy.

In 2018, Lombardo was named in a sexual harassment class action lawsuit against the Weinstein company and others, which claimed that Lombardo enabled Weinstein's abuse by helping to "procure and deceive potential victims." Lombardo never appeared in court and the suit was later settled. He hasn't responded to this latest allegation.

This week's lawsuit also names Weinstein, Disney, and its subsidiaries Buena Vista, and Miramax. Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Weinstein's attorney Imran H. Ansari said in a statement to NPR, "Certainly Mr. Weinstein had no control over any alleged conduct by Mr. Lombardo, nor would he have any reason to know what Mr. Lombardo was doing nor where Mr. Lombardo was at the time that Ms. Ziff alleges she was raped. As such, Mr. Weinstein firmly denies that he has any liability for the alleged conduct of another."

Over the years, Ziff has worked on legislation to stop sexual harassment and abuse in the fashion industry. Her organization has also launched an industry-specific support line for people who've experienced sexual harassment and assault.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 6, 2023 at 9:00 PM PDT
A previous version of this web story incorrectly stated that Harvey Weinstein asked Fabrizio Lombardo to be the best man at his 2003 wedding.
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.