Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers struck out in their efforts to convince a New York judge to delay his trial after new charges were filed against the movie producer in Los Angeles.
Justice James Burke denied the defense request, saying the publicity surrounding the new charges should not interfere with his ability to get a fair trial.
Burke also rejected a prosecution request to revoke Weinstein’s bail and jail him for the duration of the trial. Joan Illuzzi, the lead prosecutor on the case, argued that the new charges make it more likely that Weinstein could try to flee.
“There is a grave risk that this defendant at some point will realize evidence against him is… overwhelming,” she argued.
Los Angeles prosecutors charged Weinstein on Monday with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013. Prosecutors in that case have asked for bail of $5 million, citing Weinstein’s wealth and history of violations of the ankle monitoring system in New York.
Weinstein is currently free on $2 million bond in New York, and Burke said those terms will remain in place for now.
In seeking a delay, Weinstein attorney Arthur Aidala argued that the new charges could prejudice potential jury members who read media coverage of the allegations.
“Don’t we need a cooling off period?” Aidala asked. “Don’t we at least need a period of time so there are other things in the news?”
“I ask that you use common sense,” he added. “Can you be fair and impartial? It is the talk of the town right this moment.”
Burke said that jury members will be advised that being arrested or charged with a crime is in itself “meaningless” and should have no bearing on the New York case.
Jury selection began on Tuesday afternoon, with attorneys interviewing hundreds of potential jurors. The court hopes to have a 12-member jury impaneled by Jan. 21 and to begin opening arguments the next day.
In New York, Weinstein faces five charges stemming from accusations that he raped a woman in a hotel room in 2013, and forcibly performed oral sex on another woman in his apartment in 2006. Weinstein says any sexual activity was consensual. The movie mogul, once a central figure in the indie film work due to his support for “The Crying Game” and “Pulp Fiction,” was accused of harassment, abuse, and rape by dozens of women after the New York Times and the New Yorker first published bombshell reports in the fall of 2017 accusing Weinstein of misbehavior.
If convicted, Weinstein, one of the most powerful people in the indie film community and the Oscar-winning producer behind “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction,” faces life in prison. Weinstein has denied the allegations and claims that any sexual contact was consensual. His trial is seen as a key test for the #MeToo Movement. Weinstein’s fall led to an industry-wide reckoning — over the past two years, others have come forward with allegations of abuse, harassment, and assault against celebrities and media figures such as Dustin Hoffman, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Bryan Singer, Louis C.K., and Les Moonves.
Weinstein entered the court Tuesday, looking enfeebled and clutching a walker that had two tennis balls affixed to the bottom. Weinstein had back surgery in December. Burke reprimanded Weinstein at various points during Tuesday’s hearing for using his cell phone, warning him that he would be held in custody if he didn’t stop checking his mobile device while court was in session.
“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life? By texting in violation of an order?” Burke snapped at one point.