Harvey Weinstein's 2020 Rape Conviction Overturned By New York Appeals Court

Harvey Weinstein's 2020 conviction on rape charges has been overturned by the State of New York Court of Appeals, which ordered a new trial. Weinstein will remain behind bars since he was convicted in a separate case in California.

Thursday, April 25th 2024, 5:47 pm

By: CBS News

Harvey Weinstein's 2020 conviction on rape charges has been overturned by the State of New York Court of Appeals, which ordered a new trial. Weinstein will remain behind bars since he was convicted in a separate case in California.

In the 2020 trial, Weinstein, now 72, was found guilty of rape in the third degree for sexually assaulting an actress in 2013 and of committing a criminal sex act by forcing oral sex on a former production assistant in 2006. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison. 

The court found that the judge who presided over the disgraced movie mogul's case had made a mistake by allowing prosecutors to call witnesses whose accusations were not part of the charges against him, according to the 4-3 decision. The text of the decision was released Thursday morning. 

The decision to have women who were not part of the charges against Weinstein testify was made "erroneously" by the lower court, the appeals court said. The error was "compounded" when the lower court ruled that Weinstein could be cross-examined about those allegations. The appeals court said these decisions diminished Weinstein's character before a jury.

Because prosecutors may not use "prior convictions or proof of the prior commission of specific, criminal, vicious or immoral acts" to establish a person's criminality, the decision to have alleged victims whose claims were not part of the charges against Weinstein meant that he was judged "on irrelevant, prejudicial, and untested allegations of prior bad acts," according to the appeals court. 

"We knew Harvey Weinstein did not get a fair trial," said Weinstein's lawyer, Arthur Aidala, in a news conference on Thursday afternoon. "There are some people who are unpopular in society but we still have to apply the law fairly."

Manhattan prosecutors said they intend to retry Weinstein. 

"We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault," a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said just minutes after the appeals court decision was announced. Bragg was not in office during Weinstein's prosecution in the case. 

Lawyer Douglas H. Wigdor, who has represented eight Weinstein accusers, including two of the witnesses in the New York trial, called Thursday's decision a "major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence."

"Courts routinely admit evidence of other uncharged acts where they assist juries in understanding issues concerning the intent, modus operandi or scheme of the defendant," Wigdor said. "The jury was instructed on the relevance of this testimony and overturning the verdict is tragic in that it will require the victims to endure yet another trial." 

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented Miriam Haley, the woman who Weinstein was found guilty of committing a criminal sex act against, said that her client would consider testifying again if prosecutors decided to try Weinstein's case again, despite the process being "grueling and retraumatizing." 

"I commend Mimi on her courage and willingness to keep standing up for the truth," Allred said, before criticizing the appeals court's ruling. "The decision of the New York Court of Appeals today is a significant step backwards for the 'Me Too' movement in criminal cases in New York. The decision means that it will be more difficult to convict those who victimize women and prey on them. As a result, fewer prosecutions will be brought against sexual predators and many will escape the justice that they deserve." 

"Although victims have lost this battle they have not lost the war," Allred said. "We will continue to fight for justice for victims both in criminal and civil cases until there is a fair trial not just for the accused but also for those who allege that they are victims of sexual predators."

The trial came after media reports began to surface in late 2017 of misconduct accusations against Weinstein, and dozens of women came forward and accused him of sexual assault. The scandal was a major spark for the #MeToo movement. 

In a separate trial in Los Angeles, jurors found Weinstein guilty of one count of rape and two counts of sexual assault against an Italian model and actor during a 2013 film festival. He has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for those charges, which he was expected to serve after his New York sentence.

"Harvey Weinstein is a stone-cold predator. He's a rapist, twice convicted. Not once, twice," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday when asked about the New York ruling, CBS Sacramento reported.

"He should never see the light of day. Period, full stop," Newsom said.

Two charges of indecent assault against Weinstein have also been authorized in the United Kingdom

In January 2024, a woman filed a lawsuit accusing Weinstein and Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan of sexual assault. Dolan was also accused of trafficking. Both men have denied the allegations.

#MeToo movement advocates and those who have spoken out about abuse from Weinstein before gathered for a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. Actor Ashley Judd, who previously alleged that Weinstein pressured her to give him massages and watch him shower when she visited his hotel room for what she thought was a breakfast meeting while working on the film "Kiss the Girl," called the overturning of his conviction an "institutional betrayal." 

Mira Sorvino, who also previously made allegations against Weinstein, said on social media that she was "horrified" by the decision and "disgusted" at the justice system. 


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