Outrage as Harvey Weinstein’s New York rape conviction overturned due to ‘crucial mistake’ by judge

Former Hollywood producer found guilty in 2020 of raping and assaulting two women

Katie Hawkinson
Friday 26 April 2024 12:31 BST
Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer says it’s a ‘great day for America’ after his rape conviction overturned
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Harvey Weinstein’s accusers have responded with fury after the disgraced Hollywood mogul’s rape conviction was overturned at the Court of Appeals in New York.

Ashley Judd, the first actor to come forward with sexual harassment allegations against the 72-year-old, said that the decision is “unfair to survivors”.

“This is what it’s like to be a woman in America, living with male entitlement to our bodies,” she told a press conference after the shock ruling was announced.

Harvey Weinstein, pictured walking into the Manhattan criminal court in 2020 ahead of his conviction, still faces a 16-year sentence in California (AFP via Getty Images)

Weinstein was found guilty in 2020 of raping and assaulting two women, and is currently serving 23 years at a prison in upstate New York.

The New York court overturned the conviction on a 4-3 majority, stating that the original trial judge made “egregious errors” by allowing prosecutors to call witnesses whose allegations were not related to the charges at hand.

Lindsay Goldbrum, who represented six women who came forward against Weinstein, called the decision a “leap backward for the rule of law” and said it could deter future sexual assault victims from coming forward. “To all victims of sexual assault who are re-traumatised by today’s ruling, I am so sorry,” she told NBC News.

Ms Goldbrum’s clients include Tarale Wulff, who testified that the former Hollywood producer raped her in 2005.

Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala at Manhattan criminal court on Thursday (AFP via Getty Images)

Weinstein’s attorney Arthur Aidala praised the decision and said that his client had been “tried on his character, not the evidence”, during a press conference outside Manhattan criminal court on Thursday.

“Today’s legal ruling is a great day for America because it instills in us the faith that there is a justice system, that a judge... will say: ‘I don’t care who the defendant is, if it’s a former president of the United States, or the most storied Hollywood producer of our generation. The law applies to everyone,’” Mr Aidala said.

Weinstein learned that his conviction was overturned after someone inside Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, New York, handed him a copy of a two-sentence article breaking the news, Mr Aidala said.

The lawyer said that the court’s decision had been unexpected and that Weinstein was “very gracious and grateful”.

Hollywood star Ashley Judd, pictured at a press conference hours after Weinstein’s conviction was overturned. She accused the former Hollywood producer of sexual harrassment (PBS NewsHour)

Weinstein is now entitled to a new trial in New York which his legal team confirmed that it will pursue.

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has said that it plans to retry Weinstein, which means his accusers could be forced to retell their stories on the witness stand.

“We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault,” a spokesperson for Mr Bragg’s office told The Independent.

At his 2020 New York trial, Weinstein was convicted of sexually assaulting Mimi Haley, pictured at a press conference in 2017 (Getty Images)

The appeal court’s decision does not mean that Weinstein will be freed. He was also convicted of rape in California two years ago, and given a 16-year sentence.

However, he will not be immediately extradited to California. Weinstein will be moved to a different facility, likely in New York City, his spokesperson Juda Engelmayer told The Independent on Thursday.

There, he will await word on whether Mr Bragg intends to retry the case. If the DA decides not to move ahead, Weinstein will be extradited to California.

At his 2020 trial, Weinstein was convicted of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haley, previously Haleyi, in 2006 and raping aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013.

Weinstein, right, pictured with Bill Clinton in 2000, was once a powerful Hollywood producer (Getty Images)

Several women, who were not part of the official charges testified against him. The witnesses included actress and model Tarale Wulff, who said Weinstein raped her in 2005; actress and producer Dawn Dunning who said he put his hand up her skirt in 2004; and Lauren Young, who said Weinstein masturbated in front of her and groped her in 2013.

More than 100 women in Hollywood came forward against the disgraced producer, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Uma Thurman.

Weinstein was once one of Hollywood’s most well-connected and powerful producers who made a series of Oscar-winning films. But behind the glamourous facade, it was a different story. More than 80 women have accused him of abuse ranging from groping to rape. Even with his conviction overturned in New York, he remains convicted of rape in California.

The Weinstein revelations launched the #MeToo movement in 2017, which saw women from all corners of society come forward to talk about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

Tarale Wulff, pictured speaking after Weinstein’s 2020 trial, testified that the former producer raped her (AFP via Getty Images)

Weinstein’s defence attorneys had appealed his 2020 New York conviction in February, arguing “he was judged, not on the conduct for which he was indicted, but on irrelevant, prejudicial, and untested allegations of prior bad acts”.

While the appeals court sided with this argument, the three dissenting justices issued a blistering opinion. Judge Madeline Singas wrote that the decision “has continued a disturbing trend of overturning juries’ guilty verdicts in cases involving sexual violence”.

“Fundamental misunderstandings of sexual violence perpetrated by men known to, and with significant power over, the women they victimise are on full display in the majority’s opinion,” she wrote.

This decision comes after former TV star Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was thrown out in Pennsylvania in 2021, and he was released. Cosby’s trial was another notable case that stemmed from women who came forward during the #MeToo movement.

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