The reason is one of legal complication rather than exoneration: the allegations fall outside the statute of limitations, the legal line in the sand which effectively places a cap on the time period in which a charge can be made after an offence is alleged to have occurred.

Given the media attention that was placed on the Toback accusations in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, the decision is not just bruising to the #MeToo movement, but also a dramatic illustration of the difficulty an accuser has of seeing his or her day in court.

The three cases investigated by the Beverly Hills Police Department related to incidents in which Toback was alleged to rubbed up against women and masturbated.

In two of the three cases – one incident at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1993 and a second at a private screening in 2008 – the District Attorney's office found that Toback may have committed sexual battery but that the one-year statute of limitation had expired.

In the third case, which related to a separate incident in 2008, the woman involved would not agree to be interviewed by detectives.

The two cases investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department related to incidents in 1978 and 1980 where Toback was alleged to have exposed himself or groped the victim.

In both of those cases the statute of limitation had also expired, the District Attorney's office confirmed.

Though the Harvey Weinstein case commanded the lion's share of the headlines as a wave of accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault swept Hollywood last year, Toback's case was notable for the volume of his accusers.

The story was initially broken by The Los Angeles Times' reporter Glenn Whipp with an investigation that included accounts from 38 women.

Publication of the story prompted scores more women to come forward and contact the newspaper; the final total was as many as 395.

Thank you to all the women who told me their stories about James Toback with such strength, candor and courage.

— Glenn Whipp (@GlennWhipp) January 7, 2018

They included high-profile actresses inculding Rachel McAdams, Ellen Pompeo, Selma Blair and Julianne Moore who spoke publicly of Toback's behaviour.

Both Blair and McAdams, for example, gave accounts which echoed the broader narrative: that Toback would flatter their acting talent, offer them a role in his films and invite them to his hotel room.

Here's a post-it James Toback gave me on the street, by Times Square, September 25, 1986. He said he wanted to meet me at the Harvard Club and wrote down the address and time. I didn't go. This was his third time accosting me on street in two years

— Victoria Balfour (@VickiBalfour) October 17, 2017

The damn has broke. Women will no longer be silent. We have your back and will amplify.

— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) October 22, 2017

To the growing number of accounts, US Today presenter Natalie Morales added her name, writing on her social media account: "… add one more. Exact same playbook by James Toback when I encountered him near Central Park."

Among the Hollywood heavyweights to denounce Toback in the wake of the accusations was Guardians of the Galaxy writer-director James Gunn.

Why Ive despised James Toback for over 20 years #JamesToback

— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) October 22, 2017

Toback was not disciplined by either the Directors Guild of America or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as he has not been a member of either organisation for more than a decade.

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Michael Idato

Michael Idato is a Senior Writer based in Los Angeles for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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