Harvey Weinstein trial postponed until 2020 in light of fresh evidence
The film mogul denies all claims of non-consensual sex.
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to a new indictment that includes revised charges of predatory sexual assault, a development that caused the judge to delay the start of his trial until early next year.
The change to the case was intended to open the door for an actress to give evidence against Weinstein in a rape and sexual assault trial that had been scheduled to start on September 9.
Weinstein mostly kept quiet during a brief appearance in a Manhattan courtroom aside from some brief exchanges with Judge James Burke, who at one point scolded him for pulling out his mobile phone during the proceeding.
After the judge agreed with defence lawyers that the trial needed to be put off so they could have time to respond to the revised charges, he told them the new trial date of January 6 was firm.
To make the point, he stared at the defendant and asked, “Mr Weinstein, do you want to go to trial?”
“Not really,” Weinstein quipped.
Weinstein, 67, who is free on one million US dollars bail, has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex.
After the hearing, his lawyers said they would ask the judge to dismiss the indictment, which they called a “desperate” attempt to salvage the case.
“I think the case itself is weak,” said his lawyer Donna Rotunno.
Weinstein previously pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.
The case remains about those two women, but prosecutors said the new indictment was needed to allow a third woman, Annabella Sciorra, to give evidence.
Sciorra, who is best known for her work on The Sopranos, says Weinstein raped her inside her Manhattan apartment after she starred in a film for his movie studio in 1993.
Prosecutors cannot charge Weinstein with the alleged attack on Sciorra because it took place too long ago to be prosecuted under state law, but they want to use her evidence to prove that Weinstein had a pattern of assaulting women.
That is necessary to prove the charge of predatory sexual assault.
Sciorra’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, said she was willing to tell her story to bring Weinstein to justice.
She criticised the defence team for saying they would try to get her evidence barred.
“Why are they so afraid of having additional witnesses testify?” she said.
Sciorra went public with her story in a story in The New Yorker in October 2017.
Court papers filed by the defence called the attempt to make Sciorra a prosecution witness an “11th-hour manoeuvre” that “raises significant legal issues” and had predicted it could delay the trial.
Separately, defence lawyers have asked an appeals court to move the trial case out of New York City because a “circus-like atmosphere” there fuelled by news reports and social media posts.
It is unclear when the court will take up the request.