Thursday, April 15

Weinstein appeals rape conviction, blames ‘arrogant’ judge


More than a year after Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction, his lawyers are demanding a retrial, arguing in court documents Monday that that landmark #MeToo prosecution that put him behind bars was prompted by improper rulings by a judge who was ” arrogant “in protecting from dishonored the movie mogul’s right to a fair trial.

In a 166-page brief filed with a state appeals court, Weinstein’s attorneys repeatedly targeted Manhattan Judge James Burke, arguing that he influenced the outcome of the trial with repeated rulings favorable to prosecutors, including a decision allowing more Accusers testify about the allegations. that never led to criminal charges.

Weinstein’s attorneys also challenged Burke’s refusal to remove a juror who had written a novel involving predatory older men, as well as his decision to allow prosecutors to have an expert on victim behavior and myths. of rape while rejecting the testimony of defense experts on similar issues.

“Mr. Weinstein was entitled to a fair trial by an impartial jury,” attorneys Barry Kamins, John Leventhal and Diana Fabi-Samson wrote in the brief.

“The trial court should have exercised the utmost vigilance to protect this most important right of the accused,” they wrote. “Instead, the trial court was arrogant in its obligation to safeguard this right and the consequences for Mr. Weinstein were disastrous.”

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 of a criminal sexual act of forcible oral sex with a film and television production assistant in 2006 and third-degree rape for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013. .

He was acquitted of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault stemming from the accusations of actress Annabella Sciorra of a rape in the mid-1990s, testimony his attorneys said Monday was so outdated it should never have been allowed.

Sentence ‘unduly harsh’

Burke sentenced Weinstein to 23 years in state prison, which his lawyers argued Monday was “unduly harsh and excessive.” Given his previously clean criminal record, his renowned career as an Oscar-winning film producer, and his history of charitable donations, Weinstein’s lawyers argued that he deserved a significantly lighter sentence.

Weinstein is also charged in California with assaulting five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013. His extradition has been delayed due to the pandemic. Weinstein tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after arriving at Wende’s maximum-security correctional facility near Buffalo last spring.

Weinstein maintains his innocence and maintains that any sexual activity was consensual.

Weinstein’s attorney said at the time of his conviction that he was “somewhat stunned” by the verdict, but remained “cautiously optimistic” that it could prevail on appeal. They filed a notice of appeal in April 2020. No arguments are expected for several months.

A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment on Monday’s filing, saying: “We will respond in our brief to the court.”

‘Carnival conditions’

In the filing, Weinstein’s attorneys argued that he was tried in “carnival conditions,” with protesters shouting “rapist” outside the courthouse, and that Burke should have acceded to his demands to delay or move the trial, particularly after the Los Angeles authorities. announced the new charges against Weinstein just as jury selection began.

Burke, they wrote, “refused to acknowledge any possible bias that injured (Weinstein) either from the charges uncovered with great fanfare in California or the intimidation tactics in and around the courthouse.”

The judge’s decision to allow the testimony of three women whose accusations did not lead to charges in the New York case “overwhelmed” the trial with “excessive, random and highly dubious prior evidence of wrongdoing.”

Rules vary by state when it comes to calling witnesses to testify about “prior negative acts” outside of the actual charges. New York’s rules, shaped by a landmark decision in a poisoning case in 1901, are among the most restrictive.

In the case, People v. Molineux, the state’s highest court overturned the conviction of a chemist accused of poisoning a rival with cyanide seltzer because prosecutors had relied too heavily on evidence to suggest that he had previously poisoned someone else.

Weinstein’s attorneys argued that the additional testimony went beyond detailing motive, timing, intent, or a common scheme or plan and essentially brought him to trial for crimes for which he was not charged and did not have the opportunity to fend.

“Because the evidence on the crimes charged was weak, the prosecution flooded the jury with abundant stories of alleged misconduct (many of which were not criminal in nature) that had no legitimate probative purpose, but simply described Weinstein as disgusting, “wrote Weinstein’s attorneys.

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