NEW YORK (AP) — A New York appeals court on Thursday upheld Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction and 23-year prison sentence, rejecting the movie mogul’s claims that the judge of his landmark #MeToo lawsuit prejudiced him by allowing women to testify on allegations that were not part of the criminal case.
The ruling by a five-judge panel of the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld one of the most high-profile verdicts to date in the United States’ consideration of sexual misconduct of public figures powerful – an era that began with a flood of allegations against Weinstein.
Weinstein’s publicist, Juda Engelmayer, said he was considering his options and would seek to appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised,” Engelmayer said.
Weinstein, 70, was convicted in New York in February 2020 of a criminal sex act for forcibly performing oral sex on a television and film production assistant in 2006 and raping an aspiring actress in 2013.
He was acquitted of rape and predatory sexual assault stemming from actor Annabella Sciorra’s allegations about a mid-1990s encounter. The Associated Press does not generally identify people alleging sexual assault unless they consent to be named; Sciorra has spoken publicly about his allegations.
Weinstein is imprisoned in California, where he was extradited last year and is awaiting trial for assaulting five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills from 2004 to 2013.
In a 45-page decision, the appeals court said trial judge James Burke properly exercised his discretion in allowing prosecutors to bolster their case with testimony from three women who accused Weinstein of raping them but whose allegations had not led to charges in the New York case. .
The judges said that although the volume of documents, relating to 28 alleged acts over 30 years, was “unquestionably large, and, at first glance, appears perhaps troubling”, Burke correctly exercised his discretion in assessing its relevance to the case. .
The judges had been far more critical during closing arguments in December, questioning a number of Burke’s rulings, including one that cleared the way for prosecutors to confront Weinstein with evidence of other unrelated misconduct had he testified.
The judges, echoing the concerns of Weinstein’s attorneys, said at the time that the decision effectively muted his defense.
The panel on Thursday also rejected Weinstein’s argument that Burke was wrong on other counts: allowing a woman who wrote a novel involving predatory old men to remain on the jury, and letting prosecutors do their thing. witness expert testimony about victim behavior and rape myths. . Burke did not allow testimony on similar topics from defense experts.
Weinstein’s sentencing, heralded by activists and advocates as a landmark achievement, was dissected just as quickly by defense attorneys seeking to get him out of what could be the rest of his life behind bars.
Rules for calling additional witnesses to testify about “prior wrongdoing” vary by state and have been problematic in Bill Cosby’s successful appeal of his conviction for sexual assault in Pennsylvania.
The New York rules, shaped by a decision in a poisoning case in 1901, are among the most restrictive.
At the December appeals court hearing, Weinstein’s lawyers argued that the additional testimony went beyond what is normally allowed – detailing motive, opportunity, intent or pattern or common plan — and essentially put the former studio boss on trial for crimes he wasn’t charged with. and had not had the opportunity to defend against.
Burke’s decision, which allowed prosecutors to use stories from Weinstein’s past to attack his credibility, helped prevent him from taking the witness stand, Weinstein’s attorney Barry Kamins told the committee. of appeal at the December hearing.
“The jury was overwhelmed with such prejudicial and bad evidence,” Kamins said. “It was a character trial of Harvey Weinstein. People made him look like a bad person.
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