Harvey Weinstein: Fresh charges emerge in LA as criminal trial begins

New York judge tells disgraced producer's attorneys to 'leave witnesses alone'

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 06 January 2020 15:13 GMT
Harvey Weinstein arrives at court using a walking frame

Harvey Weinstein has been charged with new sexual offences in Los Angeles just hours after his trial for rape and sexual assault began in New York City.

Los Angeles district attorney Jackie Lacey announced that Mr Weinstein had been charged with raping a woman and sexually assaulting another woman over a two-day period in February 2013.

He has been charged with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint.

The two latest charges in California were among allegations from eight woman who accused Mr Weinstein of assaulting them, according to Ms Lacey. Three cases fell beyond the statute of limitations, but police are determining whether to file charges in the other three cases.

The announcement came as jury selection got under way for a trial that is expected to grab international attention over the next two months. In that case, he is accused of assaulting two women in New York in 2006 and 2013. Victims in the two Los Angeles cases are not among the dozens of women who have publicly accused the former producer of assault, although one victim is expected to testify in New York, according to Ms Lacey.

In a statement, Ms Lacey said: “We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them. I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them. It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward.”

According to prosecutors, Mr Weinstein allegedly forced his way into the hotel room of one of the two women and raped her on 18 February 2013.

The following day, he allegedly sexually assaulted another woman in a Beverly Hills hotel suite.

If convicted, he faces up to 28 years in prison.

Mr Weinstein will be arraigned at a later date, which has not yet been scheduled, according to the district attorney’s office.

The indictment followed the explosive first day inside – and outside – a New York courtroom as it prepares for Mr Weinstein’s landmark trial.

New York criminal court judge James Burke denied a request from Mr Weinstein’s attorneys to sequester the jury for the duration of the hearings, where the former Hollywood mogul faces charges of first- and third-degree rape, criminal sex in the first degree, and two counts of predatory sexual assault, stemming from two incidents in 2006 and in 2013.

New York prosecutors also plan to submit seven of more than 70 photographs of Mr Weinstein as evidence, but Judge Burke will hold off on a decision until a later date while the court begins to select a jury this week.

Assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said the photo evidence the office possesses is “very, very important” and recognised that the defendant is “particularly sensitive” about some of the exhibits.

She said the district attorney’s office does not intend to “ever, ever humiliate” the defendant.

The judge also denied prosecutors’ request to prevent Mr Weinstein’s legal team from speaking with or about witnesses and other women who have accused him of sexual assault and abuse.

Although he didn’t grant a gag order, Judge Burke reprimanded his attorneys to “leave the witnesses alone” outside the courtroom.

He told Mr Weinstein’s attorneys: “Excise the witnesses from your communications going forward ... It’s going to be hard enough to get a fair and impartial jury. None of this will help that.”

More than 80 women have come forward following several investigative reports detailing Mr Weinstein’s decades of alleged abuse.

Ms Illussi-Orbon said that “enough harm has been done to many of these witnesses” following media appearances and statements made by Mr Weinstein and his legal team, including remarks from defence attorney Donna Rotunno, who said that likely testimony from actress Annabella Sciorra, who accused Mr Weinstein of raping her in the early 1990s, was too “weak” to support prosecutors’ arguments.

That witness is expected to testify in the coming weeks.

Ms Illussi-Orbon criticised the defence’s “abominable” behaviour for discussing witnesses “in a humiliating and degrading way”.

Ms Rotunno said she didn’t do anything “improper” and was only representing her client. She said: “[Ms Illussi-Orbon] calls my client a predator and then has the nerve to say I cannot discuss the case.”

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