Everything You Need To Know About The Harvey Weinstein Trial, Explained

Kaitlin Reilly

A major criminal trial of the #MeToo era is inching closer to justice.

Prolific producer Harvey Weinstein became the face of abuse of power in the entertainment industry when reports of his numerous acts of alleged sexual misconduct broke in fall of 2017. Now, should a grand jury indict Weinstein on the charges against him, the disgraced Oscar winner will prepare to stand trial.

Despite an overwhelming number of women coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein (including stars like Rose McGowan and Asia Argento) Weinstein will potentially only stand trial for recent criminal charges against him regarding three women.

In anticipation of the possible indictment by grand jury, here is everything to know about the current case against Weinstein:

Where is Harvey Weinstein’s trial take place?

Weinstein’s legal battle will continue to take place in New York, the city where he ran his business. Weinstein attempted to get the trial moved out of New York, citing he couldn’t get a fair trial in a city where he was so well-known. The motion was dismissed.

(Though Weinstein’s name is associated with the Los Angeles-based entertainment industry, he recently sold his primary family home in Connecticut.) Weinstein was indicted by a grand jury on 30th May 2018 on charges of first- and third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sex act.

Originally scheduled for September 2019, the trial has been pushed back to 6th January 2020.

What charges is Weinstein currently facing?

In May of 2018, a statement from the New York Police Department revealed that Weinstein was charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women, dating back to 2013 and 2004. One of these women is Lucia Evans, who alleged to The New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him when she was a college student and aspiring actress. The second woman’s identity is unknown.

Following the charges, Weinstein pleaded not guilty in court and was freed after paying a $1 million dollar bail. As a stipulation of his bail, Weinstein was forced to surrender his passport, limit his travel to New York and Connecticut, and wear an electronic monitoring device.

In July of 2018, a grand jury in New York charged Weinstein with allegedly committing a forcible sexual act against a third unknown woman. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. stated that Weinstein was officially charged with “an additional count of Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree… as well as two counts of Predatory Sexual Assault, a Class A-II felony.”

Should Weinstein be convicted of the alleged crimes against this third woman, there is a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Weinstein also pleaded not guilty to these new charges.

Since the first reports came to light, Weinstein has continuously denied having committed any non-consensual sex acts.

Why isn’t he facing more charges?

Investigations are still ongoing, and not every allegation against Weinstein holds up to the statute of limitations. Civil lawsuits, like the one Ashley Judd took out against Weinstein for allegedly damaging her career after she refused his advances, are separate from these criminal charges. Deadline reported in May that there were nearly “a dozen lawsuits filed in the courts against Weinstein.”

Still, there could be more charges for Weinstein to face by the time a trial is set. According to The New York Times, a federal inquiry has been opened to see if Weinstein violated any stalking laws. According to The New York Times, there is also a separate investigation into whether Weinstein’s AIDs charity was involved in fraudulent activity.  Essentially, stay tuned.

Who is Weinstein’s lawyer?

The producer has gone through many lawyers since October of 2017 (including Lisa Bloom, who called representing Weinstein a “colossal mistake”) but the one that’s sticking around right now is Benjamin Brafman, who previously represented Sean Combs.

Brafman’s strategy is to assert that the sexual contact Weinstein engaged in were consensual. He told reporters outside the courthouse in May 2018 that “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood.” In a BBC interview that same month, Brafman said that the cases against Weinstein are “legally defective or factually not supported.”

Will Weinstein himself testify in court? Will the accusers?

He is not obligated to, and Brafman may decide not to put him on the stand. According to The New York Times, the accusers who have pressed charges against Weinstein will be obligated to speak in court, if they are subpoenaed.

What about other women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct? Can they testify?

It’s possible. According to The New York Times, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office hopes to put other accusers on the witness stand so that they can establish a pattern of predatory behaviour by Weinstein. However, the New York Times also notes that Justice James M. Burke of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, who will be the judge in Weinstein’s case, might not let the prosecution admit these witnesses as evidence.

Brafman does not want such witnesses, for obvious reasons. He told The New York Times that it would be “terribly unfair to allow women to testify to their interaction with Mr. Weinstein as to matters for which Mr. Weinstein cannot be criminally prosecuted, but nevertheless try and use their testimony to prejudice the jury.” Brafman, again, maintains that all these encounters were consensual.

What is “forcible compulsion” and why is it important?

Forcible compulsion in relation to sex crimes means to compel by use of physical force or by threat. While there is no statute of limitation for rape in New York, there is a five-year statute for “other felony sex offences.” According to The New York Times, because the alleged survivors described situations where forcible compulsion was involved, the case did not have a time limit to pursue prosecution.

Can Weinstein win his case?

It is possible, especially if “bad act witnesses” are not allowed to take the stand. Take the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby, for example. In June of 2017, after 52 hours of deliberation, the case was declared a mistrial. Gloria Allred, lawyer for Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University who accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her, made it clear that the lack of establishing witnesses to prior bad behaviour hurt their case.

“If the court allows more accusers to testify,” Allred said outside the courthouse at the time of the mistrial, “it might make a difference. In other words, it’s too early to celebrate Mr. Cosby.”

Evidence suggested Allred was right. Less than a year later, at the retrial, Cosby was found guilty on all three counts of sexual assault. Constand’s team called upon five other accusers with similar allegations to make their case.

This story has been updated.

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