A New York appeals court has upheld former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s conviction on rape and sexual assault charges, rejecting arguments that the trial judge effectively rigged the outcome in favour of the prosecution.
In a unanimous ruling issued on Thursday, a five-justice appellate panel found that the judge did not make errors that would warrant overturning the conviction or the 23-year sentence, reports ‘Variety’.
“We reject defendant’s arguments, and affirm the conviction in all respects,” wrote Justice Angela Mazzarelli, on behalf of the court.
Alvin Bragg, who was sworn in as Manhattan D.A. in January, issued a statement thanking the survivors in the case “for their remarkable courage and candour.”
“We are gratified by today’s decision, which upholds a monumental conviction that changed the way prosecutors and courts approach complex prosecutions of sexual predators,” Bragg said.
A spokesman for Harvey Weinstein, Juda Engelmayer, said that, “We are disappointed, but not surprised.”
“We are reviewing all of our options and will seek to petition the Court of Appeals and beyond,” Engelmayer said. The Court of Appeals is the highest court in New York state.
Harvey Weinstein was convicted in February 2020. He is currently housed at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, where he awaits trial on 11 additional sex crimes charges.
Harvey Weinstein attorneys had argued that Justice James Burke, the trial judge, had made several errors that made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial. They argued that the prosecutors should not have been allowed to call three “prior bad acts” witnesses to testify about uncharged conduct.
And they argued that Weinstein was effectively blocked from testifying in his own defence, because prosecutors had been given permission to bring up 28 other incidents — including bullying and physical violence — to impeach his testimony.
According to ‘Variety’, the appeals court rejected both arguments in its 45-page ruling, finding that Burke had acted within his discretion in allowing both types of evidence.
“While we acknowledge the sheer size of the impeachment material that the court allowed, we have analysed that decision within the larger context of all of the circumstances presented by this case, and have concluded that the court providently exercised its discretion,” Mazzarelli wrote.
At an appellate hearing in December, two justices suggested that Burke’s rulings lacked “balance,” and Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels indicated she believed that Weinstein had faced “overkill.”
Weinstein was convicted of sexually assaulting Miriam Haley and of third-degree rape of Jessica Mann. Weinstein’s defence argued that both accusers lacked credibility because they maintained friendly relations with Weinstein afterward, sending him fond and thankful messages.
On appeal, Weinstein’s lawyers asked that the verdict be overturned because the jury could not have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on the available evidence.
“This we cannot conclude,” Mazzarelli wrote.
“The jury could have chosen to believe that defendant acted without their consent notwithstanding the complainants’ behaviour before and after the events in question.”
Gloria Allred, who represented Haley and two other witnesses who appeared at the trial, said she was “thrilled” by the ruling.
“Mimi made many sacrifices for the cause of justice and endured a vigorous cross examination,” Allred said.
“I am very proud of her and my two other clients who testified in this case, and the entire prosecution team in this case.”
Harvey Weinstein’s attorney also took issue with Burke’s decision not to remove Juror 11, a writer who had a forthcoming novel that dealt with predatory older men. The defence argued that the juror lied about the contents of the book during jury selection, and they were enraged when she was allowed to remain on the panel.
Weinstein, 69, will not be eligible for parole until after his 87th birthday.
His attorneys have said that he is in ill health, and needs extensive treatment to keep from going blind.
During his New York trial, Weinstein used a walker to get to court. In Los Angeles, bailiffs bring him to his appearances in a wheelchair.