Harvey Weinstein Could Go Free, as Appeals Court Casts Doubt on Conviction

Harvey Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence on rape and sexual assault costs, which make him ineligible for parole till after his 87th birthday. He’s additionally going through further costs in Los Angeles that carry a most sentence of 140 years.

But the disgraced producer might go free in only a few months if a New York appeals court docket overturns his conviction.

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Five justices heard arguments on the case on Wednesday, and three of them expressed severe concern in regards to the testimony admitted at trial. One justice, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels, referred to using uncharged allegations as “overkill” and “piling on.”

Weinstein’s attorneys do not make any predictions about how the court docket will rule, however they’re feeling optimistic.

“I think it couldn’t have gone better,” mentioned Donna Rotunno, the lead protection lawyer at Weinstein’s trial, who mentioned that the road of questioning felt like “a wish list of how you want something like that to go.”

“We are very happy,” mentioned her co-counsel, Damon Cheronis. “We are very hopeful, based on the appellate court’s questioning, that they see this case for what it is, that evidence that should have never been brought before this jury infected the trial and made it impossible for Mr. Weinstein to get a fair trial.”

The trial choose, Justice James Burke, allowed prosecutors to name three witnesses — Tarale Wulff, Dawn Dunning and Lauren Young — who testified that Weinstein had sexually assaulted them throughout what they thought had been enterprise conferences. Those allegations weren’t eligible to be charged, however they had been used to assist the allegations for which Weinstein was on trial.

Burke additionally dominated that if Weinstein took the stand, prosecutors might cross-examine him about as many as 28 different uncharged acts, together with an incident when he threatened to chop off somebody’s genitals, and one other when he left an worker by the facet of the street. Weinstein didn’t testify, in order that proof was not heard.

At the oral argument on Wednesday, the justices questioned whether or not these choices — known as Molineux and Sandoval rulings, respectively — served to impugn Weinstein’s character, moderately than to make clear whether or not he dedicated the charged offenses.

“He doesn’t get convicted because he’s a bad guy,” mentioned Justice Judith Gische. “He gets convicted for these particular crimes.”

Assistant District Attorney Valerie Figueredo argued that Burke had balanced his rulings and excluded a few of the proof sought by the prosecution.

Julie Rendelman, a protection legal professional and former Brooklyn prosecutor, mentioned the D.A.’s workplace could have erred by asking for an excessive amount of proof, even when Burke was keen to permit most of it.

“My mother always said, ‘Don’t be a chazir‘ — a taker,” she mentioned. “Their job is not to get in everything. Their job is to make sure everything is protected. You don’t want to be in the situation they’re in now. You don’t want your case potentially overturned.”

Several attorneys mentioned Thursday that the justices’ questions don’t assure that they are going to order a brand new trial. It is feasible that the justices might fault Burke’s rulings, however uphold the decision on the grounds that the jury had overwhelming proof with out the additional testimony. It’s additionally potential that the justices might break up, and people who raised the gravest issues might find yourself within the minority.

“We’re kind of reading tea leaves here,” mentioned protection legal professional Michael Bachner. But, he added, “The New York State court is not bashful about overturning convictions, even in high profile cases.”

Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School, teaches about Molineux testimony, and instructed that its use within the Weinstein case was “dubious.”

“This proof is dangerous because it carries such tremendous prejudice,” Gershman mentioned. “There are a number of cases the courts have reversed. This is an issue the courts monitor very carefully because they know how devastating this proof can be.”

Weinstein was convicted of third-degree rape of Jessica Mann and first-degree assault of Miriam Haley. He was acquitted of costs pertaining to Annabella Sciorra, who alleged he had raped her at her residence within the early 1990s. If the appeals court docket ordered a brand new trial, prosecutors might name Haley and Mann to testify once more, however not Sciorra.

Haley’s legal professional, Gloria Allred, mentioned Thursday that if Haley had been requested to testify at a retrial, “She will consider it.”

A brand new district legal professional, Alvin Bragg, will probably be sworn in on Jan. 1. If the conviction is thrown out, he would in the end must make the choice about whether or not to strive Weinstein once more.

Bragg cited the Weinstein case throughout his marketing campaign, faulting incumbent Cyrus Vance for not charging Weinstein for the alleged sexual assault of mannequin Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in 2015. Bragg additionally famous that as chief deputy within the legal professional common’s workplace, he had overseen the state’s civil case in opposition to Weinstein and the Weinstein Co.

Defense legal professional Jeff Greco predicted that Bragg would face vital strain to strive Weinstein once more.

“There’s no way they’re going to punt,” Greco mentioned. “It would be political suicide.”

A spokesman for Vance’s workplace declined to remark. Bragg’s spokesman mentioned it will be improper for him to touch upon a pending case earlier than he has taken workplace.

Weinstein is at the moment housed on the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, the place he’s awaiting his trial on 11 different rape and sexual assault costs. That trial isn’t anticipated to start till subsequent summer time, on the earliest. If the New York conviction is overturned, Weinstein’s attorneys would doubtless search to have him launched on bail.

“He would absolutely be bail eligible,” Greco mentioned. “There would be no legal basis to keep him in.”

Rotunno argued that Weinstein didn’t get due course of at his trial, nearly two years in the past, and was as an alternative subjected to “emotional decisions.” She mentioned hoped there was a shift within the general local weather since then.

“That was my beef with this case all along,” she mentioned. “There was this ‘convict at all costs’ mentality. I will continue to be bothered by that.”

Cheronis agreed.

“They tried to create this monster we never believed existed,” Cheronis mentioned. “They were allowed to put in evidence that wasn’t relevant, that was prejudicial, and thank God people are now taking it seriously.”

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