Weinstein Plans His Appeal as Verdict Opens Door to Women

Patricia Hurtado

(Bloomberg) -- Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers lost no time in outlining an appeal of the film producer’s sexual assault conviction, even as the verdict may open the door for more women to trust the courts with their accounts of attacks by powerful men.

The defense will argue that the judge made a bad call in allowing extra witnesses and that the jury was tainted by news of Weinstein’s sex crimes indictment in Los Angeles on the first day of his New York trial, among other errors, his lawyer Arthur Aidala said in an interview.

“Beginning on the day of jury selection, Mr. Weinstein had his name and pictures everywhere because he’s charged with crimes in Los Angeles,” Aidala said. “We asked for a one-week adjournment and a cooling-off period, but the judge rejected it.”

The result, he said, was jurors being interviewed for their ability to be fair and impartial “while they’re reading the cover of the newspaper about the guy who’s being accused by other people in L.A.”

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office had no comment on the verdict or when it expected a hearing in L.A. for Weinstein to enter a plea.

Read More: Weinstein Charged With Rape in L.A. While Facing N.Y. Trial

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Monday congratulated the accusers who testified against Weinstein, as well as the prosecutors.

“These are the eight women who changed the course of history in the fight against sexual violence,” Vance said in a news conference. “These are eight women who pulled our justice system into the 21st century by declaring that rape is rape, and sexual assault is sexual assault.”

Vance said it didn’t matter when it happened or whether it was committed by “a stranger in a dark alley” or “a man of immense power, prestige and privilege.”

The former Hollywood power broker was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced, two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison. The jury of seven men and five women also cleared him of a first-degree rape charge.

Read More: #MeToo Movement Is Bigger Than Weinstein

But the panel found Weinstein, 67, guilty of a criminal sexual act, with a maximum sentence of 25 years, and third-degree rape for forcing oral sex on two women whom prosecutors said he lured with promises of career advancement.

Although it was a mixed verdict, it could encourage more victims of sexual assault to pursue justice in the courtroom. Rape is notoriously underreported, partly because victims fear they won’t be believed and will be retraumatized.

The verdict is “a strong message sent to survivors about the prospects of justice,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, who prosecuted sex crimes and domestic violence cases in the Manhattan D.A.’s office.

One of the obstacles to securing a conviction in a sexual assault case, besides getting women to come forward, is persuading the jury that the acts weren’t consensual. The prosecutors addressed that problem partly by winning the right to call three witnesses, known in New York as Molineux witnesses, who said Weinstein assaulted them but who couldn’t be included in his indictment because of the date or location of the alleged attacks.

Their testimony to “prior bad acts” was meant to establish that Weinstein didn’t seek consent for sex, and it may have played a role in the verdict. Such testimony was given in the retrial of Bill Cosby, which resulted in his conviction.

It’s also an important part of the defense’s plan for its appeal, said Aidala, who plans to argue it prejudiced the jury against his client.

Read More: Three Weinstein Accusers Could Send Producer to Prison for Life

The defense will extend that argument to three additional witnesses the prosecution called to corroborate the accounts of accusers beyond the two women at the heart of the indictment, Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann. The actor Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s, was also in the indictment.

The additional witnesses include the actor Rosie Perez, who testified that her colleague and friend Sciorra told her about the alleged attack shortly after it happened, and a former boyfriend of one of the three Molineux witnesses.

“Allowing corroborating witnesses to prior-bad-act witnesses is almost like a trial within a trial, which is not supposed to happen,” Aidala said of New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke’s ruling allowing them to take the stand.

The defense will also challenge the judge’s refusal to remove a female juror who wrote a novel about young women’s relationships with older, predatory men.

“There are many issues, many violations,” Aidala said.

Weinstein’s lawyers told the jury that the women had consensual, and even transactional, sex with their client, and that they “re-labeled” the encounters as assaults years after the fact in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

“Harvey Weinstein will now have to face the serious consequences of his criminal behavior at his sentencing,” the lawyer Gloria Allred said in a news conference, after jockeying for the mike with Weinstein’s lawyers. She said Haley, one of her clients, would be in court to make a victim’s-impact statement at his March 11 sentencing. “In addition, I look forward to seeing him in Los Angeles after the sentencing as he attempts to defend himself against the criminal charges he faces there,” she said.

“He took it like a man,” Weinstein’s lead attorney, Donna Rotunno, told reporters. “He knows this is not over.”

The case is People v. Weinstein, 450293/2018, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

Read More

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(Updates with quotation at end of Allred paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the form of Vance’s remarks.)

--With assistance from Rebecca Greenfield and Edvard Pettersson.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey, Peter Blumberg

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