Everything you need to know about the Harvey Weinstein rape trial

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee

The disgraced studio mogul is about to head to court. This is what you need to know about the charges brought against him.

For the past few months the New York courts have been occupied with working through the charges against Harvey Weinstein.

The trial is still yet to be fully heard and continues to have its commencement date pushed back. But each new week brings a fresh set of information about the case bring brought against the disgraced studio mogul.

Weinstein is charged with five charges of sexual assault against two different women. The first took place in July 2006 and involved a forced oral sex act. In the second, which took place in 2013, he is accused of rape. (A third charge has been dismissed.) 

The disgraced former studio mogul has entered a plea of not guilty on all counts and has denied the allegations.

So what comes next in the case against Weinstein? 

When is the trial against Harvey Weinstein happening? 

Weinstein was set to face the courts in September 2019 but his trial has been pushed back to January.

Appearing before Judge James Burke in New York on 26 August, Weinstein was asked if he was ready for the trial. The producer laughed and responded “not really“. Burke then moved the trial to January in order to give Weinstein’s legal team more time to prepare. The judge also reprimanded Weinstein for using his mobile phone during his court appearance.

“I’ve been informed you have taken your cell phone out,” Burke said. “Please refrain from doing that.” When Weinstein made a show of answering Burke, the judge replied: “It’s a court order. Don’t talk to me.” 

This is the third time the trial has been moved. It was originally intended to commence in March, but was moved back to 3 June in February in order to give Weinstein’s legal defence team more time to work on the case.

Harvey Weinstein with his lawyer in court on 9 July 

At one point, there was some debate over whether the trial would happen at all, after lawyers for Weinstein filed a motion to dismiss all charges against the producer in late 2018. But on 20 December Judge Burke denied the motion to dismiss and ruled that the trial would go ahead as planned.

“No basis for the defendant’s claim of prosecutorial or law enforcement misconduct in the proceedings,” was the judge’s ruling.

The trial will last for approximately 10 weeks. 

What are the charges against Harvey Weinstein?

More than 80 women, including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Lupita Nyong’o and Asia Argento have made claims of sexual misconduct, assault and even rape against Weinstein in the media. 

But the case being tried in court pertains to two specific incidents brought against Weinstein by two different anonymous victims. The first involves forced oral sex in 2006 in Weinstein’s New York apartment. The second was the rape of a woman in a hotel room in 2013. The third charge, which was dismissed in October 2018, was brought by Lucia Evans, who alleged that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004.

Weinstein handed himself into police in May 2018, and was formally indicted in July. He was released on a $1 million (£751,000) bail and asked to hand over his passport and wear a tracking device in order to prevent him from fleeing US jurisdiction. 

On 26 August, Weinstein plead not guilty to a third instance of predatory sexual assault alleged by the actor Anabella Sciorra of The Sopranos. As outlined in her original account in The New Yorker, Sciorra alleges that Weinstein raped her at her New York apartment in 1993. “I was so ashamed of what happened,” Sciorra told Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. “And I fought. I fought. But still I was like, ‘Why did I open that door? Who opens the door at that time of night?’ I was definitely embarassed by it. I felt disgusting. I felt like I had fucked up… I don’t even think I told the therapist. It’s pathetic.” 

Because the assault happened outside of New York’s statute of limitations it will not be brought as a new charge against Weinstein. However, prosecutors can use Sciorra’s testimony as further evidence against Weinstein as  “sexual predator”. The producer’s defence team have said that the decision to call Sciorra as a witness is “desperate” and a testament to the “weak” stature of the prosecution’s case. 

What kind of jail time do these charges carry?

Harvey Weinstein handed himself into police in May 2018

According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, the charges carry “a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment”. 

Vance Jr added that these charges involved “some of the most serious sexual offenses that exist under New York’s penal law.” 

“This indictment is the result of the extraordinary courage exhibited by the survivors who have come forward. Our investigation continues. If you are a survivor of the predatory abuse with which Mr. Weinstein is charged, there is still time to pursue justice.”

Is there the chance of a financial settlement in the Harvey Weinstein trial? 

Weinstein has already reached a settlement deal with a number of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. This is a separate civil case to the criminal trial about to take place in New York.  

In this civil case a number of women are set to receive some $44 million in financial settlements from Weinstein. “That $44 million is not coming from Harvey Weinstein himself,” Corinne Ramey of The Wall Street Journal told NPR. “It’s actually coming from insurance policies.” 

The break down of this settlement is thus: $30 million for the accusers, creditors and employees of The Weinstein Company, with the remaining $14 million going to cover legal fees. 

Who is the legal team defending Harvey Weinstein? 

Harvey Weinstein is going to court in June

Good question. 

There has been much movement within Weinstein’s legal team. At first, the film producer was represented by Benjamin Brafman, who was behind the motion to dismiss the criminal charges against the producer from 2018.

But in January Brafman quit, reportedly over repeated disagreements with Weinstein about the direction of the case. 

Benjamin Brafman 

After Brafman’s exit, Weinstein hired Jose Baez and Ronald Sullivan to spearhead his defence. Most recently Baez and Sullivan were seen defending Rose McGowan – one of Weinstein’s most vocal accusers – against drug possession charges after being found with cocaine in her wallet at an airport.

According to reports from the New York Post Weinstein is searching for another female lawyer to join this “dream team” of attorneys to join the two women from Baez and Sullivan’s firms already defending him. It’s just that Weinstein doesn’t want to pay top dollar for this lawyer, the reports allege.

“People around Harvey are saying he’s desperately trying to hire a ‘skirt’ – their term – for the team as he feels it will soften his image,” the New York Post reports. “Harvey does not want to pay premium fees,” an anonymous source added. Instead, he hopes that the female lawyers will work for less money in exchange for the ‘exposure’ of defending such a high profile case.

Who are the other lawyers involved?

According to the New York Post, Weinstein wanted Pamela Mackey, an attorney who defended Kobe Bryant against a rape accusation, to defend him, but the pair “had a serious disagreement over her fee”. 

Isabelle Kirshner, one of New York’s top criminal defense lawyers, and Susan Necheles, currently defending the heiress Clare Bronfman against the NXIVM cult charges, both refused to join Weinstein’s legal team. He has also considered hiring Linda Fairstein, the former New York sex crimes ADA who was involved in the Central Park Five wrongful convictions, as a consultant.

Linda Fairstein

This isn’t the first time a woman has resigned from defending Weinstein.

Back in 2017, the producer hired Lisa Bloom – daughter of the renowned women’s rights lawyers Gloria Allred – to form part of his defensive team when allegations of sexual misconduct and assault were made against him in reports by The New York Times and The New Yorker. (In a twist of fate Allred is now representing Sciorra as she gives testimony against Weinstein.) 

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Bloom released a statement regarding her decision to take on Weinstein as a client describing him as an “old dinosaur learning new ways” and that she had “been blunt with Harvey and he listened to me”. But after backlash from several sources, including her own mother, Bloom resigned from Weinstein’s team.

“Had I been asked by Mr Weinstein to represent him, I would have declined, because I do not represent individuals accused of sex harassment,” Allred said at the time. “I would consider representing anyone who accused Mr Weinstein of sexual harassment, even if it meant that my daughter was the opposing counsel.” 

Images: Getty


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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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