Harvey Weinstein’s Friday court hearing in his rape and sexual assault trial will be closed to the media and the public, New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke ruled.
The issue of whether or not the movie mogul’s latest court appearance will remain public has been hotly contested in recent weeks. News organizations such as the Associated Press and the New York Times have argued that there is no legal reason to bar press while both prosecutors and Weinstein’s defense attorneys argue that having the hearing play out in public could taint the jury pool. Robert Balin, an attorney for the news organizations, said he will appeal the decision.
“We are still confident that the First Amendment will open the hearing and unseal the documents,” Balin told Variety. “The next step in battle is in the Appeals Court.”
Earlier, Weinstein’s attorney Marianne Bertuna urged the judge to bar the press, saying “Let’s limit the damage that’s been done here in the midst of an insatiable media frenzy.”
The trial involves allegations from two women, one of whom claims that Weinstein performed a forcible sex act on her and the other of whom is alleging she was raped by the producer. In a Manhattan courtroom, the prosecutors and Weinstein’s legal team met to argue over whether other women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assault will be allowed to testify at his June trial. Both parties want these deliberations to unspool behind closed doors.
“We all agree how important the press and media is, we rely on the press, but it is our position that documents must be sealed, because if not, Weinstein’s sixth amendment rights will be prejudiced,” Bertuna argued.
However, Balin countered that the producer’s trial was of public interest and that much of the information being discussed was a matter of public record.
“The specifics have been widely known,” he said.
In his ruling, Justice Burke said that freedom of the press is not absolute and that Weinstein had a legal right to a fair trial that could have compromised by media coverage of Friday’s hearing. He added that the trial itself will be open to the public once it begins.
Weinstein walked into court house wearing a dark suit while flanked by police officers and his lawyers. He was limping noticeably.
Before he was accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of women in 2017, Weinstein was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. As the head of Miramax and later the Weinstein Company, he produced Oscar-winning films such as “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and “The King’s Speech.” But he also allegedly used his position to force women to have sex with him and to cover up assault allegations. Mira Sorvino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, and Ashley Judd are just a few of the people who have gone public with claims that Weinstein propositioned them, harassed or abused them.