Harvey Weinstein’s trial, due to start this month, has now been postponed until January 2020 following his arraignment last month.
Despite many allegations levelled against Weinstein, he is currently standing trial for sexual assault crimes against two women. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, arguing that the encounters were consensual, and is currently out on $1 million bail. He has always insisted that all of his sexual relationships were consensual.
At the arraignment, prosecutors sought to include a new grand jury indictment. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office claimed that this was necessary in order to put the testimony of actress Annabella Sciorra, who alleges Weinstein raped her, before a grand jury.
Due to the statute of limitations in the state of New York relating to some felony sex crimes, Weinstein cannot be prosecuted as a result of Ms Sciorra’s allegations. However, Sciorra will testify in order to assist prosecutors in arguing that the predatory sexual assault allegation is satisfied. Predatory sexual assault (N.Y. Penal Law §130.95) encompasses various serious first degree sexual offences, including rape in the first degree, and in order for predatory assault to be proven, the prosecutors here would need to satisfy one or more of these felonies had been committed “against one or more additional persons”. This is the most serious charge Weinstein has been charged with, and, if proven, could result in a 25 year prison sentence.
The judge had previously approved the testimonies of further women at trial, which would be used to demonstrate a pattern of alleged “prior bad acts” by Weinstein under The Molineux Rule, a specific type of witness testimony, distinct from what the prosecutors are hoping to achieve with Sciorra’s evidence.
Due to the further indictment, Judge James Burke postponed the trial to give Weinstein’s lawyers time to respond. When asked whether he was ready for the trial, Weinstein laughed and said, “not really”.
Weinstein at one point took out his mobile phone, and was told by the judge, “I’ve been informed you have taken your cell phone out. Please refrain from doing that.” As Weinstein attempted to address him, the judge said, “It’s a court order. Don’t talk to me.”
Weinstein’s lawyers further used the arraignment to attempt to move the trial out of New York City, arguing it was impossible that Weinstein could receive a fair trial there as this was where the #metoo movement was catapulted to prominence, and that the jurors would be under pressure to deliver a result that, “the politicians, the activists, the celebrities and the media demand.” Prosecutors are expected to oppose a change of venue.
Written by Amanda Munro at BLM