A man who tweeted about the Harvey Weinstein case during jury selection, suggesting he could leverage the publicity to promote his own novel, faced the judge in court Tuesday morning.
Howard Mittelmark got off with a stern lecture, after Justice James Burke had threatened him with jail time and a fine for tweeting about the case in mid-January when he was brought in as a prospective juror.
In a since-deleted tweet from earlier this year, Mittelmark wrote, “If anyone knows how a person might hypothetically leverage serving on the jury of a high-profile case to promote their new novel…dm me, please.”
At the time, Weinstein’s defense team filed a motion to alert the court of the tweet, saying that Mittelmark was eager to be seated on the jury, solely to promote his book. Throughout jury selection, Weinstein’s lawyers argued that the process to find fair and impartial jurors was essentially impossible because of the high-profile nature of the case and the public interest in their client.
“I’m asking you to retain a lawyer and return to this courtroom on Tuesday March 10, 2020, with an attorney to show cause why I should not find you in contempt. You face a fine and up to 30 days in jail,” the judge told Mittelmark in January.
Mittelmark showed up in a suit to court on Tuesday morning with his attorney, Joel Cohen, for the court session that lasted five minutes. He made a statement to the judge, apologizing for violating the rules of jury selection and stating it was not his “intent to do so when I wrote that tweet.”
“I do want to impress upon you that you flagrantly violated the instructions to all prospective jurors to not discuss the case on social media,” Burke said, emphasizing that his tweet “put jury selection into jeopardy” and “made the entire process more difficult.”
“I hope that now, you trust and understand the jury selection is not a joke…. and that your actions were serious and completely unjustifiable. When you are called again for jury service, I trust that you will take the obligations seriously,” the judge said.
A few days ahead of his court session, Mittelmark wrote an apology letter to the judge, which Variety obtained (attached below). On his way out of the criminal courthouse, Mittelmark did not make any further comment to the small group of reporters who showed up.
Another novelist ultimately was seated on the jury — a woman who wrote a book about predatory older men. Weinstein’s team has said that female juror will be the basis of their appeal, following Wednesday’s sentencing.
The jury was comprised of seven men and five women, who found Weinstein guilty on two charges of a criminal sex act and rape in the third-degree and not guilty on three charges, including sexual predatory assault.
Weinstein is currently staying at the medical unit at Riker’s Island. In a memo on Monday, his legal team requested the judge sentence him to five years in prison, the statutory minimum for two counts of rape and sexual assault, citing decades of charitable work. The prosecutors, on the other hand, requested a much harsher sentence, urging the judge to look at decades of sexual assault and abuse allegations.
Mittelmark’s court date comes just one day before Weinstein is due in court for his sentencing where he faces up to 29 years in jail.
Here is Howard Mittelmark’s letter, furnished by his attorney:
Dear Judge Burke:
I write with respect to your order that I appear before you with counsel to show cause why I should not be held in contempt of Court.
Please understand that I deeply regret having posted the tweet that brings me here today. I meant no disrespect to you and didn’t consciously disregard your admonition not to discuss the case on social media. When I posted the tweet, I didn’t think it constituted discussing the case. I didn’t intentionally disobey or disregard your instructions. Had I thought the tweet would generate the response it did, I wouldn’t have done it. I now recognize that doing so was poor judgment on my part. I took my responsibility as a juror very seriously and wanted to do the right thing by serving when called. What happens in this Court is far more important than any novel I’ve written, and I would never have chosen to interfere with or complicate the trial for any reason at all, let alone for something as unimportant and inappropriate as self-promotion. I regret that I managed to do that, and I am truly sorry for any delay I caused. It goes against how I think a person should behave.
The tweet was an ill-considered joke, which was entirely at my own expense, because trying to sell a novel that way would be both ridiculous and desperate and wouldn’t work. It amounted to me poking fun at myself, but without intending to do so, I made myself a complication in a very important case, and I apologize for that. If I could undo it, I would. I deleted the tweet within twenty-four hours, after a few people suggested that I had exercised bad judgment in posting it, and I realized that they were right. I’ve lost a lot of sleep regretting that tweet and the consequences I’m facing.
Additionally, Your Honor, I apologize to you personally. It is not in my nature to make anyone’s job harder, and I’m sorry I added a further complication to yours.
Finally, while I very much hope you won’t sentence me to jail for my lapse in judgment, I also ask that if you choose to impose a fine, you consider that hiring a lawyer has already been a substantial expense for my wife and me. I have great respect for this institution, and I genuinely regret that my actions have made it necessary for me to be here today, taking up more of your time and the Court’s resources. Thank you for your time and consideration.