Home Entertainment Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer Appeals Rape Verdict at New York’s Highest Court

Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer Appeals Rape Verdict at New York’s Highest Court

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Harvey Weinstein‘s lawyer urged the highest court in New York to overturn his conviction on Wednesday, saying that too many accusers were allowed to testify at his trial.

Arthur Aidala challenged the trial judge’s ruling allowing three women to testify as “Molineux” witnesses. The women spoke about sexual assaults that were not among the charges, but did help establish a pattern of misconduct.

Had Weinstein testified in his own defense, the prosecutors also would have been allowed to raise 28 allegations of other bad acts, including that Weinstein threw a table of food at an employee and threatened to sever someone’s genitals.

Aidala argued that the two rulings made it impossible for Weinstein to get a fair trial.

“This is major prejudice,” Aidala said. “It’s saying, ‘He’s a bad guy. He’s a bad guy. He’s a bad guy.’”

Weinstein, the former Hollywood producer, is serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault at Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y. He was separately convicted in Los Angeles of additional rape charges and was sentenced to 16 years in that case.

In New York, a lower court rejected Weinstein’s arguments and upheld his conviction on a 5-0 vote in June 2022. Weinstein appealed to the Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — which agreed to hear the case.

During the questioning, some of the judges raised questions about the Molineux ruling and the Sandoval ruling, which would have allowed the prosecution to attack Weinstein’s credibility if he had taken the stand.

Aidala argued that Weinstein was “begging to tell his side of the story,” but that the Sandoval ruling made that too great a risk.

“It’s a he-said, she-said case, and he said, ‘That’s not how it happened. There was an interaction. I’ll tell you how it happened,’” Aidala said. “Then this Sandoval ruling came down — unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

Questioning the prosecutor’s office, Associate Justice Betsy Barros appeared to agree that the ruling was excessive.

“This Sandoval ruling — I don’t think anybody in their right mind would testify,” she said. “How is this a fair trial, when you’re not able to put in your side of it?”

Judge Jenny Rivera also appeared to question whether the Molineux witnesses were needed to establish a unique pattern of events.

“What’s unique about a powerful man trying to get a woman to have sex with him?” she asked.

At another point, she suggested that Molineux — a case decided in 1901 — might need “rethinking.”

Steven Wu, the chief of appeals for the Manhattan D.A.’s office, argued that the Molineux witnesses were called to establish that Weinstein did not care whether the women he targeted were consenting or not.

“He knew he was going to initiate a sexual encounter, regardless of their consent,” Wu said.

And other judges seemed to believe that the Molineux testimony was appropriate.

Judge Madeline Singas noted that Weinstein’s defense was that the sexual encounters were transactional, and that the Molineux witnesses helped establish that they were not.

“The jury has a right to know that when these women are put into that position, that he has done this time and time again, and that he knows this isn’t a consensual situation because he knows these other women haven’t consented to that, and have run out,” she said.

Judge Anthony Cannataro also argued that the evidence could be useful in helping to determine whether both sides were truly consenting.

“That to me seems like what Molineux was made for,” he said.

The judges’ questions may have limited predictive power.

During the December 2021 oral argument at the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, three of the five judges expressed concern that the Molineux and Sandoval rulings had gone too far. One referred to it as “overkill.” But all five later voted to uphold the conviction.

In a statement following the argument, Aidala noted that the judges had raised concerns about several critical issues, and said, “we are cautiously optimistic that Harvey Weinstein’s conviction will be overturned.”