In the first major legal move since his arrest on multiple rape charges last week, Harvey Weinstein has decided today not to testify in front of a grand jury convened by the Manhattan District Attorney.
“After being unfairly denied access to critical information about this case that was needed to defend him before the Grand Jury, Mr. Weinstein’s attorneys decided that there was not sufficient time to properly prepare Mr. Weinstein,” said the disgraced producer’s lead criminal lawyer Benjamin Brafman on Wednesday morning just hours before Weinstein was scheduled to appear before the panel. “The identities of the accusers and the specific charges were provided to Mr. Weinstein last Friday on the eve of the Memorial Day Weekend and a deadline for his appearance set for Wednesday, 2pm,” noted Brafman. “Our request for a postponement of his appearance before the Grand Jury was denied,” the NYC-based lawyer added and noted he will be informing the office of D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. of the decision not to testify forthwith.
Weinstein has been charged with two counts of rape — one involving force — as well as criminal sexual act in the first degree, for alleged assaults against two women that occurred in 2013 and 2004. Having been sitting for several weeks and issuing subpoenas, the grand jury is pondering an indictment on basically the same charges and perhaps some financial matters too.
Following months of investigation by the NYPD, the D.A. and that Grand Jury, The Weinstein Company co-founder surrendered to the cops on May 25 amidst a media frenzy and harsh reactions from Hollywood. After being booked at precinct in lower Manhattan, he was arraigned on felony sex crime charges in New York Criminal Court. Setting a July 30 date for the next hearing, a judge set a prearranged bail of $1 million, a $10 million bond, took Weinstein’s passport and put a monitor on him to ensure his movements were restricted to New York and Connecticut. The Oscar winning producer plead not guilty and Brafman said on the court steps that day that he intends to appeal to get the case tossed out ASAP.
Today’s decision that Weinstein won’t testify before the grand jury follows Brafman going to the courthouse on Tuesday to begin derailing the case against his client. Though last week saw the first criminal charges slapped on Weinstein, the last six months has seen more than 80 women go public with claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment since a New York Times expose unveiled the producer’s alleged vile conduct.
Weinstein wasn’t there himself but his lawyer met for nearly two hours with prosecutors from the D.A.’s office and Justice James Burke in closed chambers yesterday. Later, the media friendly Brafman said that he had concerns that with all the public pressure and spotlighting of Weinstein since that October 5 NYT article could the producer truly receive a fair trial. The lawyer also aimed to undermine the case by stating that one of the women cited in the May 25 charges was in fact someone Weinstein had a “consensual sexual relationship” with for five years before and several years after the alleged 2013 rape.
Clearly on a PR arch and in the opening stages of a defense strategy, Brafman reiterated those comments and more pointed remarks today.
“Mr. Weinstein’s attorneys noted that regardless of how compelling Mr. Weinstein’s personal testimony might be, an indictment was inevitable due to the unfair political pressure being placed on Cy Vance to secure a conviction of Mr. Weinstein,” Brafman declared on Wednesday, taking the fight out of the courtroom in measures that almost seem right out of the now deceased Tom Wolfe’s acclaimed and best selling 1980 NYC novel The Bonfire of the Vanities.
As well as being investigated by federal prosecutors, the Manhattan D.A. and the NYPD, Weinstein is investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department, which sent three cases to the L.A. County D.A. on February 8. As UK police continue their probe, the Beverly Hills Police passed two cases of sexual assault to Jackie Lacey’s office on January 2.
There are also nearly a dozen lawsuits filed in the courts against Weinstein from some of the dozens and dozens of women who have alleged assault and more by the once powerful producer