Monday 27 January 2020

Judge threatens to jail Harvey Weinstein for texting in court

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson

Harvey Weinstein's rape trial took a dramatic turn on Tuesday as the judge threatened to revoke his bail and jail the former film producer after catching him using his cellphone just as jury selection got underway.

“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting and violating a court order?” state Judge James Burke asked the 67-year-old defendant, visibly angry. He told Weinstein not to answer.

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, the lead prosecutor, urged Burke to jail Weinstein.

“There is a grave risk that this defendant at some point will realize that the evidence against him is imposing and overwhelming” and he will try to flee, she said.

The judge ultimately decided not to jail Weinstein but warned he would not get another chance.

“I’m not looking for apologies; I’m looking for compliance,” Burke said.

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Weinstein has been released on bail, but is required to wear an electronic-tracking device that was visible on his ankle as he got out of a sports utility vehicle when he arrived at court on Tuesday.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

On Monday, hours after Weinstein's trial in New York started, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey charged Weinstein with the sexual assault of two unidentified women in 2013.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

Film producer Harvey Weinstein departs Criminal Court on the first day of a sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
Film producer Harvey Weinstein departs Criminal Court on the first day of a sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.

One of his lawyers, Arthur Aidala, asked the judge to delay the trial or at least allow more time for jury selection because Monday's charges would make it impossible to choose a fair and impartial jury this week.

“I cannot think of one time, one case where the day of jury selection this type of prejudice is being cast against a criminal defendant,” said Aidala, who held up copies of the New York Times, Daily News and New York Post with articles about the Los Angeles indictment.

“I don’t see how anyone could answer honestly that they’re fair and impartial after this stuff is drilled into their brains,” he said.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, right, at podium, announces that film producer Harvey Weinstein has been charged with raping a woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013, at a news conference at the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, right, at podium, announces that film producer Harvey Weinstein has been charged with raping a woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013, at a news conference at the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Burke refused to delay the trial, saying the jury would be instructed that an indictment was not evidence of guilt.

The allegations against Weinstein propelled the #MeToo movement, which led to men in politics and business being expelled from positions of power following accusations of sexual misconduct.

Legal experts said it would be a challenging process to find an impartial jury following the #MeToo movement and Monday's charges.

Prosecutors need all 12 jurors to back a conviction, while Weinstein needs just one holdout for a hung jury.

The once-powerful film producer is known for reshaping moviemaking with low-budget, critically acclaimed films such as "The English Patient" and "Shakespeare in Love."

Reuters

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