Matt Lauer denied the new rape allegation in a letter from his lawyer to Variety. His former NBC colleagues called the allegation “painful.”
America woke up Wednesday to the shocking news that former “Today” star Matt Lauer has been accused of rape. Which leads to a question: Could Lauer now be prosecuted for an alleged crime that supposedly occurred in Russia in 2014?
Very unlikely. Which is good news for Lauer who is furiously denying the allegation.
For sure, he can’t be prosecuted in New York City or anywhere else in the USA. Crimes are prosecuted in the jurisdiction in which they allegedly occurred – in this case, Russia.
Will Russian prosecutors move against him? How could they? There’s no extradition treaty between Russia and the U.S.
“The reality is that even when there is a treaty, extradition is 90% politics and only 10% law,” says Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who is familiar with extradition issues. “And especially when you don’t have a treaty, as we don’t with Russia, it starts as a long shot and it’s probably not even that likely.”
James Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, says the idea that Lauer could be prosecuted in Russia is a “non-starter.” Nor is it guaranteed, he says, that any American could get a fair trial in Russia on a criminal charge.
“Nothing is going to happen,” Cohen says. “In my mind it’s inconceivable that the Russians would have any interest in prosecuting Matt Lauer. It would be sort of amusing for them – you know, sort of a finger in the eye of the U.S. – but even at that level, which is not all that great, it would not justify them doing anything.”
We are already used to hearing about Lauer as a philanderer and an accused workplace sexual harasser – that’s why he was abruptly fired by NBC News in 2017.
At the time, Lauer said some of the accusations of sexual misconduct against him were untrue or “mischaracterized,” but there was “enough truth” in other allegations to make him feel “ashamed.”
Now it turns out there may be more to the story , at least according to Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill,” to be published Oct. 15. Variety obtained an early copy and reported on its contents on Tuesday night.
For the first time, Farrow identifies the accuser, Brooke Nevils, who filed a detailed complaint against Lauer with NBC News’ human-resources department on Nov. 27, 2017. The next day, Lauer was fired.
Matt Lauer in November 2017 on the set of the “Today” show in New York. (Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBC via AP)
A former assistant to Meredith Vieira, Nevils now has told Farrow that Lauer raped her in his hotel room in Sochi, Russia, at the 2014 Olympics.
“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils told Farrow, according to Variety. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
According to the Russian Criminal Code, rape involving the “taking advantage of the victim’s helpless condition” is punishable by a prison term of three to six years. Also according to the code, Article 78, the statue of limitations for a “grave crime” such as this is 10 years, according to Olga Zalomiy, a Los Angeles lawyer who is licensed to practice law in Russia.
Nevils acknowledged to Farrow that she later had other sexual encounters with Lauer back in the U.S., according to Variety, that she blames herself for those encounters, and that she was terrified of the control Lauer had over her career at the time.
Lauer said the night in Sochi was the first of several sexual encounters he had with Nevils over several months, including one in his dressing room at NBC, which “showed terrible judgment on my part.”
In response to the reporting on the Farrow book, NBC News chief Andrew Lack issued a memo to the staff on Wednesday.
“Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time. The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.
“Our hearts break again for our colleague,” Lack’s memo said.
After Lauer was fired, Nevils accepted a seven-figure settlement and signed a non-disclosure agreement to not speak publicly about the matter, Farrow’s book says.
But Lack’s memo said that under the settlements the network reached with Nevils and another accusers of Lauer, “those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose.”
Ronan Farrow in April 2018 at Variety’s Power of Women: New York at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. (Photo: ANGELA WEIS/ AFP/Getty Images)
Once again, Lauer is denying the accusations and in even stronger terms than in 2017. “Categorically false,” he said in a statement. His encounter with Nevils in Sochi was “extramarital” but “consensual.”
Did Nevils report the alleged rape to Russian authorities in 2014? If she did it’s not been publicly reported. And if she didn’t, that too would add to the difficulties should Russian prosecutors attempt to charge Lauer.
Did she tell NBC in November 2017 that Lauer raped her three years earlier? At the time, the network called Lauer’s behavior “appalling” and cited “sexual misconduct,” but there was no mention of the word rape. That was at the behest of the accuser and her attorney, Lack’s memo says.
“Today, some have questioned why we used the term ‘sexual misconduct’ to describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following,” the memo says. “We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague.”
Farrow’s book is mostly about his investigation, when he worked for NBC News, of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct over years and his clash with his network editors over whether they thwarted his story (he eventually left NBC, published in The New Yorker and shared a Pulitzer Prize with The New York Times).
Matt Lauer in the Rosa Khutor Mountain Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Farrow’s book also covers Lauer because Farrow argues that Weinstein sought to bully NBC News into killing his exposé using Lauer as his leverage. Farrow writes that Weinstein made it clear to the network that he knew about Lauer’s behavior and could reveal it, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which also obtained a copy of the book.
Juda Engelmayer, a spokesman for Weinstein, who is set to go on trial in New York in 2020 on sex-crime charges, including rape, told USA TODAY Weinstein had no comment on Farrow’s book.
Lack’s memo did not specifically address the Lauer-as-leverage charge Farrow’s book reports. Instead, he reiterated what NBC News has been saying about its relationship with Farrow since the fall of 2017: The network “completely supported” Farrow’s Weinstein investigation but after seven months he didn’t have any accusers or witnesses on the record or on camera.
“He simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization,” the memo says. When Farrow asked to take his story elsewhere, the network reluctantly agreed.
Later, after the New York Times published its own Weinstein exposé, Farrow’s article in The New Yorker was published and “bore little resemblance to the reporting he had while at NBC News,” Lack’s memo said.
Lauer’s firing in 2017 rocked NBC and left his co-anchors on “Today,” Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, stunned and teary on the morning they announced it on the show. On Wednesday, Guthrie and Kotb were just as emotional about the new allegation.
“I feel like we owe it to our viewers to pause for a moment,” Guthrie said. “This is shocking and appalling. I honestly don’t even know what to say about it.”
Lauer on Wednesday issued a statement denying Nevils’ allegation. In a lengthy letter provided by his lawyer to Variety, Lauer said the accusation was full of contradictions, and that he has declined until now to speak out about “false and salacious allegations” to protect his children.
“I have never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period,” Lauer wrote. “My silence has been a mistake. Old stories are being recycled, titillating details are being added, and a dangerous and defamatory new allegation is being made. All are being spread as part of a promotional effort to sell a book. It’s outrageous. So, after not speaking out to protect my children, it is now with their full support I say ‘enough.’ “
In response, Nevils issued a statement to USA TODAY calling Lauer’s defense a “case study in victim blaming.”
Lauer was more contrite about his behavior in his 2017 statement after he was fired. He said then that “some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”
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