Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction overturned

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By Graeme Baker
BBC News, Washington

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction has been overturned by New York’s top court, on the basis that he did not receive a fair trial.

The Court of Appeals found that prosecutors were allowed to call witnesses whose accusations were not part of the charges against him.

Its ruling said that meant he was tried on past behaviour and not solely on the crimes he was charged with.

Weinstein, 72, will remain in prison for a separate conviction for rape.

The court reached a 4-3 ruling on Thursday, stating that the trial “erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes.”

The decision also said the trial judge compounded the error by letting Weinstein be cross-examined in a way that portrayed him in a “highly prejudicial” light.

“The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial.”

One of the dissenting judges however said that with the decision, “this Court continues to thwart the steady gains survivors of sexual violence have fought for in our criminal justice system”.

Accusations against Weinstein began in 2017 and sparked the #MeToo movement, which exposed sexual abuse at the highest levels of the Hollywood film industry and beyond.

He faced two trials: in New York, where he was jailed for 23 years in 2020 for raping two women; and in California, where he was last year sentenced to 16 years for raping a woman in a Beverly Hills hotel.

The California conviction is not affected by the decision in New York.

Weinstein currently remains in a prison in New York. He was previously extradited to LA to stand trial.

It will now be up to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose predecessor Cyrus Vance brought the case, to decide whether to retry Weinstein.

Bragg’s office is separately in the midst of a criminal hush-money trial against former president Donald Trump.

“Today’s decision is a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence,” said Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer who represented eight of Weinstein’s accusers.

“It will require the victims to endure yet another trial.”

Weinstein co-founded the Miramax film studio, whose hits included Shakespeare in Love and Pulp Fiction. His own eponymous film studio filed for bankruptcy in March 2018.

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