Harvey Weinstein’s conviction in New York Court for 2020 sex crimes

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On Thursday morning, the highest court in New York state overturned the 2020 felony sex offense conviction of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and ordered a new trial. Because of the conviction, Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year term in New York. According to NDH News, the Manhattan district attorney’s office plans to retry the case.

Harvey Weinstein's conviction in New York Court for 2020 sex crimes
Harvey Weinstein’s conviction in New York Court for 2020 sex crimes

In a 4-3 ruling, the New York State Court of Appeals determined that Weinstein had not been given a fair trial, partly because the trial judge had permitted testimony from women whose charges were unrelated to the case. (Over 100 women in total have come forward with accusations against Weinstein in public.)

The trial court erred in admitting testimony of uncharged prior sexual acts involving people other than the complainants, according to Judge Jenny Rivera’s majority opinion for the appeals court. The judge noted that the complainants’ testimony was the only evidence against Weinstein, and the court’s decisions were perceived as supporting the complainants’ credibility while undermining the defendant’s character in front of the jury.

These ladies provided testimony as “Molineux witnesses” or “prior bad act witnesses” in court, which is legal in New York since 1900. Legal professionals and critics agree that applying the “Molineux Rule” might be extremely subjective and expose rulings to additional challenges.
Douglas Wigdor, an attorney who has represented eight alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein, including two of the Molineux witnesses in the New York criminal trial, issued the following in a written statement to NPR on Thursday:

“The decision made today represents a significant setback in keeping perpetrators of sexual assault accountable. When evidence of additional uncharged conduct helps juries grasp questions about the defendant’s intent, strategy, or mode of operation, courts frequently include such evidence. The jury was given instructions regarding the significance of this testimony, and it would be awful to reverse the decision since it would mean the victims would have to go through another trial.”

 

Alvin Bragg Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, will now have the responsibility of initiating a fresh trial against Weinstein. Bragg is currently a part of another highly publicized case: the trial of former President Donald Trump in New York, where he is accused of 34 felonies related to first-degree business record fabrication. A DA’s office representative said in a written statement to NPR on Thursday, “We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault.”

Even with the ruling by the New York court, Weinstein is currently facing another conviction. Due to a separate conviction for rape and sexual assault, a court in Los Angeles sentenced Weinstein to 16 years in prison in February 2023. Following the New York jail sentence, that sentence must be served consecutively. Weinstein was being held at the Mohawk Correctional Facility in upstate New York as of Thursday morning.

 

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