As Weinstein Prepares for Trial, A Bail Violation and More Denial
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Harvey Weinstein leaves New York City Criminal Court after a bail hearing on December 6, 2019 in New York City. The Oscar-winning producer appeared in court for a proceeding to evaluate his bail in part of reforms set to take effect Jan. 1 throughout New York State. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)
Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul, is expected to go on trial in New York City next month to face criminal charges stemming from allegations of sexual assault and rape.
The trial will come more than two years after The New York Times and The New Yorker first published accounts of several women accusing Weinstein of sexual misconduct, harassment and sexual assault, helping to trigger a national cultural reckoning over sexual misconduct that came to be known as the #MeToo movement.
In the 2018 documentary Weinstein, FRONTLINE examined allegations that Weinstein sexually harassed and abused dozens of women over a span of decades and used lawyers, private intelligence firms and non-disclosure agreements to protect himself and silence his accusers.
Weinstein has continued to deny any criminal or non-consensual sexual conduct.
Here’s the latest on the legal battles Weinstein still faces.
A Criminal Trial
The road to the January 6 trial began when Weinstein surrendered to the authorities in New York City on May 25, 2018. He was initially indicted on rape and sex-crime charges, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and released on $1 million bail.
He currently faces five charges: one count of a criminal sexual act in the first degree, two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count each of rape in the first and third degree. They stem from the alleged sexual assault of one woman in 2006, and the alleged rape of another in 2013. Predatory sexual assault carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
This August, prosecutors obtained a new indictment that would allow the actress Anabella Sciorra to testify at his trial. The incident, in which Sciorra alleges Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993-1994, happened too long ago to lead to criminal charges under state law, but her testimony could help prosecutors establish a pattern of behavior needed to prove the charge of predatory sexual assault. In response to the indictment, one of Weinstein’s defense lawyers called the prosecution “desperate,” and the case “weak.”
In October, Weinstein lost a bid to move the trial out of New York City, which his lawyers wrote was “the least likely place on earth where Mr. Weinstein could receive a fair trial.”
Last month, a judge denied Weinstein’s attempts to dismiss the predatory sexual assault charges. The judge also denied a request from defense lawyers to bar or limit testimony from Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist whose testimony prosecutors said is “necessary to dispel several myths about sexual assault.” (Ziv testified at Bill Cosby’s second trial.) The judge ruled that the defense is allowed to present testimony from experts on the topic of human memory, and factors that can influence or distort it, but blocked testimony on topics such as “causes of original misunderstandings of sexual intentions” and “the phenomenon of ‘voluntary unwanted sex.’”
Earlier this month, prosecutors asked a judge to raise Weinstein’s bail, citing violations in which Weinstein left a device that activates the court-ordered ankle bracelet monitoring his movements at home or out of cell service range, leaving his whereabouts unaccounted for. Weinstein’s lawyer blamed “technical glitches.” But the prosecutor said, “The people’s position is none of the bracelet violations were accidental or in any way forgetful on the part of the defendant.”
Last week, the judge increased bail for Weinstein, resulting in Weinstein posting a $2 million bond secured by collateral.
As the January trial approaches, other jurisdictions are examining allegations that might potentially lead to criminal charges. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said nine cases involving Weinstein are currently under review. The Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom have also been investigating allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein.
Weinstein was also hit with multiple civil lawsuits brought by dozens of women. Federal judges allowed at least three civil cases to move forward with claims of sex trafficking against Weinstein, but for the most part dismissed claims against officers, directors or employees of the Weinstein Company. The New York attorney general also filed a civil rights lawsuit against Weinstein, his brother and their former studio The Weinstein Company in February 2018. (The Weinstein Company declared bankruptcy in March 2018 and its assets were sold in July of that year.)
Last week, The New York Times reported that Weinstein and his film studio’s former board members had reached a tentative agreement with dozens of his accusers that could result in $25 million — out of an overall $47 million settlement — being set aside for his alleged victims and the New York AG’s suit. According to The Times, which cited lawyers involved in the negotiations, the deal wouldn’t require Weinstein to admit wrongdoing or pay the alleged victims from his own pocket. Instead, insurance companies for his former studio would pay. The deal would require approval from courts before it could be finalized.
However, lawyers for at least one alleged victim indicated their client planned to challenge the deal. “We reject the notion that this was the best settlement that could have been achieved on behalf of the victims,” lawyers Douglas H. Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer said in a statement, while not confirming the terms of the deal.
They added, “While we don’t begrudge victims who want to settle, we plan to vigorously object to any provision that tries to bind victims who want to proceed with holding Harvey Weinstein accountable for his actions, which is exactly what we intend to do.”
This week, Weinstein gave what The New York Post described as his first interview in more than a year, in which he failed to address the charges against him, and lamented that his work has been forgotten. “I made more movies directed by women and about women than any filmmaker… I’m not talking about now when it’s vogue. I did it first. I pioneered it,” he said, and added: “It all got eviscerated because of what happened.”
Several of his accusers signed a statement criticizing his interview. Katherine Kendall, one of his accusers, told ABC News in a separate statement, “What he did shattered countless women’s lives. It’s time now to listen to the women, it’s time for us to reclaim our power.”
— Nick Verbitsky contributed reporting.