Harvey Weinstein’s New York Rape Conviction Overturned by New York Appeals Court

Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty
Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty

New York’s highest court has overturned fallen Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction.

In a 4-3 decision, the appeals court ruled Thursday that Weinstein was tried not only for the crimes he was charged with but also for his past behavior—and that witnesses were allowed to testify about allegations that were not part of the case during the 2020 trial.

“Under our system of justice, the accused has a right to be held to account only for the crime charged,” the court said in its ruling.

The court has thus ordered a new trial, essentially forcing the disgraced movie mogul’s accusers to face reliving the painful episodes they described on the witness stand all over again.

Weinstein, 72, will remain behind bars in spite of the ruling, because he was convicted of rape and sentenced to 16 years in Los Angeles in a separate case. He has been serving a 23-year sentence in New York after being convicted on allegations of forcibly performing oral sex on a woman and raping another woman.

In a Thursday press conference outside Manhattan criminal court, Weinstein’s lawyer said that his client is eager to return to court to tell his side of the story without “so much baggage.”

“He’s been dying to tell his story from Day 1,” said Arthur Aidala, who later added that Weinstein learned about his legal victory after someone showed him a news report.

Harvey Weinstein Just Got Convicted of Rape All Over Again

“The news today is not only disheartening, but it’s profoundly unjust. But this ruling does not diminish the validity of our experiences or our truth; it’s merely a setback. The man found guilty continues to serve time in a California prison,” the Silence Breakers, which consists of at least 10 Weinstein victims, said in a statement to The Daily Beast.

“When survivors everywhere broke their silence in 2017, the world changed. We continue to stand strong and advocate for that change. We will continue to fight for justice for survivors everywhere.”

Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who testified in the Los Angeles rape trial against Weinstein, told The Daily Beast the ruling points to an “ongoing failure of the justice system, and the courts, to take survivors seriously and to protect our interests.”

“I care about justice. DA [Alvin] Bragg ran for office in 2021 because his predecessor failed so many of us,” she said. “We expect him to pursue Weinstein now. New York lawmakers can also do right by survivors by making the Adult Survivors Act permanent, so that survivors can at least seek justice in the civil system when the criminal courts fail us.”

Emily Tuttle, deputy director of communications for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told The Daily Beast that prosecutors would indeed go after Weinstein again. “We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault,” Tuttle said.

The state Court of Appeals specifically ruled that the judge who presided over the landmark case, Justice James M. Burke, made an error when he allowed prosecutors to call at least four women whose allegations against Weinstein were not part of the case.

In the New York trial, Weinstein was convicted of sexually assaulting former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haleyi and raping former actress Jessica Mann. He was cleared of two counts of predatory sexual assault—the most serious charges against him.

“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 because that testimony served no material non-propensity purpose,” the court said. “The court compounded that error when it ruled that defendant, who had no criminal history, could be cross-examined about those allegations as well as numerous allegations of misconduct that portrayed defendant in a highly prejudicial light,” it said.

Inside the Weinstein Trial: Four Weeks of Harrowing Testimony and a Rapist Eating Starburst

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Madeline Singas slammed the decision to overturn the conviction and accused the court majority of “whitewashing the facts to conform to a he-said/she-said narrative.” Judge Anthony Cannataro, in another dissenting opinion, called the decision an “unfortunate step backwards.”

“Today’s decision is a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence,” attorney Douglas H. Wigdor, who has represented eight Weinstein victims, said in a statement. “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. 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.”

Asked by The New York Times for a reaction to the decision, Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala said, “This happened 10 minutes ago. He doesn’t even know yet.” (Aidala did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast for comment.)

Actress Ashley Judd, who was the first to come forward with allegations against Weinstein, called the overturn “an act of institutional betrayal” in a Thursday press conference.

“I stand shoulder to shoulder with women with bloody knees. Male sexual violence may knock us down, but we get right back up and together are in this struggle for freedom from male entitlement to our bodies,” she said.

Donna Rotunno, another member of Weinstein’s legal team, told The Daily Beast: “Justice was served. I believe this decision is larger than Harvey Weinstein. Courts cannot operate on emotion and lack of due process The world is off-balance, and when the justice system does not work, nothing does. This decision restores faith in the foundation of our system.”

Lindsay Goldbrum, an attorney who has represented six Weinstein victims, including Tarale Wulff, who testified in the New York trial, does not agree.

“This ruling is a leap backward for the rule of law. In New York, Molineux witnesses play a critical role in establishing a defendant’s common scheme or plan to commit alleged crimes,” Goldbrum said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “When a defendant is accused of being a sexual predator, especially one as powerful as Weinstein, the testimony of Molineux witnesses is crucial to disproving the defense that sexual encounters were consensual.”

Elizabeth Fegan, an attorney who has represented Weinstein victims including Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who testified in the Los Angeles trial, expressed gratitude that Weinstein will remain in jail for another sex crimes conviction.

“Some thought the L.A. case to be superfluous in light of the N.Y. verdict, but now we realize how important it was,” Fegan said in a statement to The Daily Beast.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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