Harvey Weinstein’s latest hearing in his sexual assault case was delayed Friday morning when a flood caused a lockdown at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, the Los Angeles prison where the convicted rapist is currently behind bars.
“Just a routine delay,” one of Weinstein’s attorneys, Mark Werksman, told members of the media who were sitting in the courtroom.
“My client, on the payphone, is still in his cell,” Weinstein’s attorney said at 9:29 a.m., asking for an update from the bailiff, who was on the phone with the prison, trying to arrange transportation for Weinstein to be escorted to the courthouse for the hearing.
“It is my understanding,” Judge Lisa B. Lench began, “That there was a flood at Twin Towers where Mr. Weinstein is housed. It is now 9:40.”
The hearing was originally scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. It was the latest court date, leading up to Weinstein’s long-awaited Los Angeles sexual assault and rape trial. Judge Lench pushed the hearing to Aug. 10 but first dealt with a few matters regarding the defense’s subpoenas to witnesses.
Earlier this week, in another hearing for the case, Judge Lench ruled to limit the amount of information that could be obtained by Weinstein’s defense team for the upcoming trial, approving the prosecution’s motion to quash subpoenas from four witnesses for their correspondence, including personal emails and texts dating as far back as 2004 with one of the alleged victims. At that hearing, however, the judge said she wouldn’t prevent the defense from serving future subpoenas to victims and would not ask them to notify the prosecution in advance of their attempts to serve.
On Friday morning, discussions got a bit heated with the prosecution objecting to Weinstein’s attorney, Alan Jackson, who argued that the defense has the right to subpoena witnesses without giving advanced notice to the prosecution.
“As much as Mr. Thompson would love us to hand him our playbook, that’s not the law. We’re entitled to an investigation,” Jackson said, speaking of lead sex crimes prosecutor Paul Thompson, who argued the the defense’s subpoenas have been “vastly over-broad.”
“It can have the effect of harassing witnesses and the victims,” Thompson said, explaining his objection.
The prosecution argued that Weinstein’s attorneys have not made “any remote attempt to narrow the scope of what they’re asking for in what is possibly relevant in this case,” so that if “something completely irrelevant” is asked of a witness of a victim, “we can’t unring the bell.”
“I don’t know whether they’re over-broad,” the judge told Jackson. “I have no idea because I don’t know until I get documents. At some point in time, there has to be an opportunity for an objection to be made, if one is justified.”
Weinstein is scheduled to go on trial on Oct. 10 in L.A. He faces 11 charges of rape and sexual assault from five women.
In May, the judge allowed prosecutors to call an additional five women to testify about their own accusations against the former producer. Prosecutors had asked to be allowed to call 15 women, but the judge rejected 10 of them, including all allegations prior to the year 2000. Among those who were not permitted to testify were Rose McGowan and Daryl Hannah, both of whom have leveled public accusations against Weinstein.
The trial comes after nationwide court delays during the pandemic, during which Weinstein has been in prison, so far serving roughly 2.5 years of his 23-year sentence, after being convicted of rape and sexual assault in his New York trial in February 2020. A New York appeals court recently upheld that verdict in June, ensuring that the disgraced Hollywood producer will stay behind bars, despite the outcome of the upcoming L.A. trial.
Gene Maddaus and Maane Khatchatourian contributed to this report.