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Harvey Weinstein Appeals Rape Conviction, Says He Was Denied Fair Trial

Convicted. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
05 Apr 2021 0

Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein asked a New York state appeals court to toss out his sexual assault conviction, arguing he was denied a fair trial in a case that marked a legal and social turning point.

By Erik Larson and Patricia Hurtado

Word Count: 574
(Bloomberg) — 

“The American criminal justice system was designed to convict defendants based on their conduct — not their general character,” his lawyers said in a statement Monday.

Weinstein’s conviction more than a year ago followed reports by the New York Times and the New Yorker in 2017 that dozens of women had accused Weinstein of preying on them, unleashing similar claims against other powerful men.

In Monday’s appeal, Weinstein’s lawyers argued that their 69-year-old client, who is serving a 23-year prison sentence, was tried and convicted in the furor of that moment rather than for the specific crimes with which he was charged. They cite, among other factors, a juror they say lied about the nature of an autobiographical book she wrote on “the predations of older men against younger women.”

Harvey Weinstein Attends Trial On Criminal Sexual Assault Charges
Harvey Weinstein

They also argue that the judge wrongfully blocked Weinstein’s expert witness testimony and allowed charges against him that were filed too late — all of which they described as the result of a vendetta by “advocacy journalists” and an overeager district attorney.

“The vast majority of the allegations described so-called inappropriate, but noncriminal behavior,” according to a copy of the filing they provided. “A man who once stood as a giant in Hollywood is now scorned and treated as a pariah.”

“We will respond in our brief to the court,” Danny Frost, a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said in an email.

Weinstein, who was convicted of rape and a criminal sexual act, is serving his sentence in a harsh upstate New York prison. He was charged with forcing oral sex on “Project Runway” assistant Miriam Haley in his SoHo loft in 2006 and raping aspiring actor Jessica Mann in a midtown Manhattan hotel in 2013.

Vance’s prosecutors also called the actor Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s. Sciorra’s friend and professional colleague Rosie Perez testified that Sciorra told her about the attack at the time.

Read More: Weinstein Is Convicted of Rape in Case That Sparked #MeToo

In a legal brief that runs more than 160 pages, Weinstein argues that the 2006 and 2013 incidents at the center of the case “indisputably” involved consensual sexual relationships.

“Their testimony, even in the light most favorable to the people, suggests that under the totality of the circumstances described by these two women, Mr. Weinstein did not know they were not interested in having sexual relations with him at the specific relevant times charged in the indictment,” according to the filing. “Their explanations of why they capitulated, continued to see him, have sex with him, email him, introduce him to their parents and friends, and request favors from him are implausible.”

Weinstein says the court gave the claims a veneer of credibility by allowing a psychiatrist to testify that it’s common for victims to treat their abusers in such a way, while wrongfully blocking his own expert from challenging that theory.

Weinstein also argued that the 23-year sentence was too harsh, condemning him for his role as a “media villain” rather than for the crimes he was convicted of.

The case is People v. Weinstein, 450293/2018, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

(Updates with details and context starting in third paragraph.)
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