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Harvey Weinstein faces claims he tampered with electonic tag

A judge will decide whether to vary the bail conditions for the Hollywood mogul ahead of his trial on sex charges.

Harvey Weinstein arrives at court (Mark Lennihan/AP)
Harvey Weinstein arrives at court (Mark Lennihan/AP)

By Ryan Tarinelli and Michael R Sisak, Associated Press

Harvey Weinstein violated his bail conditions by mishandling his electronic tag, which left his whereabouts unrecorded for hours at a time, a New York prosecutor has argued.

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi made the claim at Friday’s pre-trial hearing for Weinstein while asking a judge to increase his bail from one million to five million US dollars.

She accused him of leaving home a piece of the monitoring technology that keeps the ankle bracelet activated.

Defence lawyer Donna Rotunno denied it was deliberate.

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Harvey Weinstein, centre, leaves court (Mark Lennihan/AP)

She blamed “technical glitches” like dead batteries.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and sexual assault.

“It has nothing to do with any manipulation of the bracelet,” Ms Rotunno told reporters after leaving court.

She acknowledged that on at least one occasion, he’d forgotten part of the device when he left the house.

“The minute he realised he forgot it, he made a phone call.”

The judge put off any decision about whether Weinstein should face stricter bail conditions over the alleged violations until next week.

The Oscar-winning producer was in court for one of many proceedings that courts across the state are scheduling to apprise defendants of reforms to New York’s bail system that are set to take effect on January 1.

State politicians passed a law this year eliminating cash bail for most non-violent crimes.

For poorer defendants facing lesser charges, these appearances could mean release from jail come the new year — or refunds for those who have posted bail.

Those outcomes are unlikely to happen in Weinstein’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial in January.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.

He is free on one million US dollars bail and maintains that any sexual activity was consensual.

Weinstein’s deep pockets have given him plenty of freedom as he awaits trial on the charges, which could put him in jail for the rest of his life.

Out on bail since his arrest last year, the disgraced movie mogul has been spotted hobnobbing at New York City nightclubs and getting jeered at a recent actors showcase.

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Harvey Weinstein (Mark Lennihan/AP)

But poorer defendants who have been hauled into courthouses for lesser offences have ended up in jail if they cannot afford a bail of even a few hundred dollars.

That financial and fairness divide was one New York lawmakers were aiming to solve with sweeping bail reforms.

Among the changes: The bail law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in April eliminates pretrial detention and money bail for the wide majority of misdemeanour and nonviolent felony cases.

It also mandates that police issue court appearance tickets instead of arresting people for low-level offences.

The reforms were motivated in part by the case of Kalief Browder, who was denied bail after he was arrested at age 16 on a charge that he stole a bag, and then spent three years in custody before the case was dropped without a trial.

He later killed himself.

People charged with rape and other serious sexual offences can still be ordered to post bail or be put into pretrial detention come the new year.

Part of the new law bars the court system from requiring defendants to paying fees to maintain electronic monitoring systems.

That could mean that Weinstein, who has been paying his own monitoring costs, will have to stop doing so.

The roll-out of the bail law has varied across the state, with some areas having robust coordination while others are doing little to nothing at all, said Insha Rahman, director of strategy and new initiatives at the Vera Institute of Justice.

Kevin Stadelmaier, chief lawyer of the criminal defence unit at the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, said his defence lawyers have been preparing for months and are seeking to free people charged with low-level offences before the law takes effect.

“We’re really going to see the fruits of our labour come on January 1,” he said.

PA

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