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May 22, 2024 9:51 AM
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Here’s why Harvey Weinstein’s New York rape conviction was tossed and what happens next – Associated Press

Photo: Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury deliberations in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020

The decision by New York’s highest court to overturn the rape conviction of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reopened a painful chapter in America’s reckoning with sexual misconduct by powerful figures — an era that began in 2017 and helped launch the #MeToo movement.

Here is what you need to know about why Weinstein’s rape conviction was thrown out and what happens next:

WHY WAS THE CONVICTION TOSSED?

New York’s Court of Appeals found the trial judge in the rape case prejudiced Weinstein with “egregious” improper rulings, including a decision to let women testify about allegations that Weinstein wasn’t charged with.

In its 4-3 decision, the court’s majority said it was an “abuse of judicial discretion” for Judge James Burke to allow testimony from these other women about “loathsome alleged bad acts and despicable behavior.”

“Without question, this is appalling, shameful, repulsive conduct that could only diminish defendant’s character before the jury,” they said.

Weinstein’s attorney Arthur Aidala had argued that Burke also swayed the trial by giving prosecutors permission to confront Weinstein, if he chose to testify, about his past history.

He said Weinstein wanted to take the stand but opted not to because he would have had to answer questions about more than two-dozen alleged acts of misbehavior dating back four decades, including fighting with his movie producer brother, flipping over a table in anger, snapping at waiters and yelling at his assistants.

WILL WEINSTEIN BE RELEASED?

Weinstein, 72, will remain imprisoned because he was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and sentenced to 16 years.

Weinstein has been serving time in New York, most recently at the Mohawk Correctional Facility, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Albany.

He could be taken to California to serve his sentence there, though he might be held in New York while awaiting a new trial if prosecutors choose to pursue one.

WHAT’S THE STATUS OF THE CALIFORNIA CASE?

Weinstein’s lawyers are appealing the only conviction now remaining — Weinstein’s guilty verdict in Los Angeles, for charges of rape and sexual assault against Italian actor and model Evgeniya Chernyshova.

“A jury was told in California that he was convicted in another state for rape … turns out he shouldn’t have been convicted and it wasn’t a fair conviction. … It interfered with his presumption of innocence in a significant way in California,” said attorney Jennifer Bonjean, whose arguments freed Bill Cosby in his appeal on Pennsylvania sex assault convictions.

Chernyshova described in tearful testimony how Weinstein attacked her in a hotel room during a film festival in 2013. Jurors rejected the allegations of another woman and couldn’t reach verdicts on two others, including those of a documentary filmmaker married to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly as Chernyshova has, and her attorney approved of the AP using her name.

Prosecutors from the California trial said in a statement Thursday that “the legal issues identified by the New York Court of Appeal are not present in the Los Angeles County Case.” The state’s laws allow for a judge’s discretion in letting witnesses testify to a defendant’s propensity for a crime, they said, and they were justified in putting on the stand four such women.

Weinstein’s lawyers will argue otherwise and suggest that Judge Lisa Lench, like her counterparts in New York, went too far in allowing testimony laying out a pattern of predatory behavior.

Bonjean’s appeal brief is due May 20. Lench rejected a previous motion for a new trial.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Manhattan district attorney’s office isn’t giving up, which means Weinstein’s 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,” the prosecutors’ statement said.

Weinstein maintains he is innocent of the charges of criminal sex acts involving forced oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 and rape in the third degree for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013. He said any sex was consensual.

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