Movie Producer’s Rape Conviction Overturned On Appeal, Will Get New Trial.

Photo: Public domain. Film producer Harvey Weinstein in 2011 at an awards ceremony.
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A rape conviction of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s has been overturned by New York’s top court, on the basis that he did not receive a fair trial, because the judge allowed several witnesses to testify about other allegations of sexual and nonsexual behaviour that were not part of the case against him.

The appeal court ruling said that the jury may have been influenced towards a negative opinion of Weinstein based on irrelevant information that was not relevant to  the crimes he was actually charged with.

Weinstein, 72, will however remain locked up in prison as he is serving time for another rape and other sexual offenses.

“We conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes,” the court’s 4-3 decision said. “The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial.”

The state Court of Appeals ruling reopens a painful chapter in America’s reckoning with sexual misconduct by powerful figures — an era that began in 2017 with a flood of allegations against Weinstein.

The order for a new trial means that witnesses against Weinstein may be asked to return to court and repeat their allegations all over again.

AP News reported that the court’s majority said “it is an abuse of judicial discretion to permit untested allegations of nothing more than bad behavior that destroys a defendant’s character but sheds no light on their credibility as related to the criminal charges lodged against them.”

However one of the judges on the panel, Madeline Singas strongly disagreed and wrote that the majority were  “whitewashing the facts” and said the Court of Appeals was continuing a “disturbing trend of overturning juries’ guilty verdicts in cases involving sexual violence.”

“The majority’s determination perpetuates outdated notions of sexual violence and allows predators to escape accountability,” Singas wrote.

Weinstein, 72, has been serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison following his conviction on charges of criminal sex act for forcibly performing oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 and rape in the third degree for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013.

He will remain imprisoned because he was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Just to complicate matters, Weinstein was acquitted in Los Angeles on charges involving one of the women who testified in New York. To complicate matters even further, the names of the alleged victims have not been released to the public.

The reversal of Weinstein’s conviction is the second major #MeToo setback in the last two years, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a Pennsylvania court decision to throw out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction.

Weinstein’s conviction stood for more than four years, heralded by activists and advocates as a milestone achievement, but was quickly pulled apart by his lawyers and the Court of Appeals when it heard arguments on the matter in February.

Allegations against Weinstein, the once powerful and feared studio boss behind such Oscar winners as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love,” ushered in the #MeToo movement.

Dozens of women came forward to accuse Weinstein, including famous actresses such as Ashley Judd and Uma Thurman. His New York trial drew intense publicity, with protesters chanting “rapist” outside the courthouse.

Weinstein is incarcerated in New York at the Mohawk Correctional Facility, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Albany. He is believed to be in poor health.

He maintains his innocence. He contends any sexual activity was consensual.

Weinstein’s lawyers claimed that Weinstein wanted to testify in the New York trial, but opted not to because Burke’s ruling would’ve meant answering questions about more than two-dozen alleged acts of misbehavior dating back four decades. They included fighting with his movie producer brother, flipping over a table in anger and snapping at waiters and yelling at his assistants–none of which were relevant to the rape charges.

“We had a defendant who was begging to tell his side of the story. It’s a he said, she said case, and he’s saying ‘that’s not how it happened. Let me tell you how I did it,'” the lawyer argued. Instead, the jurors heard evidence of Weinstein’s prior bad behavior that “had nothing to do with truth and veracity. It was all ‘he’s a bad guy.'”

Sources: VOA, BBC, CNN, AP.
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