UPDATE, 1:45 PM: Back in the old days, news that people wanted buried or forgotten was often dumped on a Friday in the hopes it would be lost over the weekend.
Not sure the strategic principle still applies in the digital age, but today it was announced that the latest hearing in Harvey Weinstein’s rape case will be pushed back at least a month.
The March 8 session in New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke’s NYC courtroom will now occur sometime in April. Coming out of a close door meeting between the Manhattan D.A.’s office and Weinstein’s lawyers, the postponement comes at the request of the disgraced producer’s relatively new defense team, I hear.
As Deadline exclusively reported last month, Jose Baez, Ronald Sullivan, Duncan Levin and Pam Mackey want more time to get up to speed on the matter that could see Weinstein behind bars for life if found guilty.
While not specific date has been set for next month for the upcoming hearing, the actual day that the trial is scheduled to start on remains the same – June 3, 2019.
PREVIOUSLY, FEB 14 PM, EXCLUSIVE: The newly minted defense team for Harvey Weinstein is poised to ask for a postponement of the looming rape trial in New York that could see the disgraced producer behind bars for the rest of his life.
Less than a month into the job, Jose Baez, Ronald Sullivan, Duncan Levin and Pam Mackey are leaning towards asking New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke for more time, I’ve learned. The blueprint is to either seek the delay just before a previously scheduled March 8 hearing, or in the courtroom itself.
Facing an early May trial date start, Weinstein has been indicted on two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree and one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape. The five felony charges from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s office carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment for the Oscar-winning producer under the Empire State’s sex crimes laws.
The defense’s desire is that Burke would rule fairly quickly on the postponement request next month. Regardless of the decision, it would establish or re-establish a solid timetable for all parties in what is a high-profile and high-stakes case by all standards.
Ex-Rose McGowan lawyer Baez and the three other attorneys officially took over Weinstein’s defense last month. The change in representation was no real surprise as the producer had begun doggedly looking for new star lawyer counsel weeks before. The fix was in for now-former defense lawyer Ben Brafman once the acerbic attorney’s second swing at getting the multi-felony matter tossed failed late last year.
Prosecutors, while no fans of any hitting of the jury trial pause button or of being seen giving any quarter to Weinstein’s side, would be willing to conceded a few weeks to the new team so they could get up to speed, sources say.
Essentially, the thinking on the part of the Assistant D.A. Joan Orbon-illuzi-led team is that a short delay at the front end is a mere bump on the road to a successful conviction. Any delay is far more preferable to the taint of a possible appeal from Weinstein claiming he had inadequate representation or ineffective assistance of counsel if convicted.
The Manhattan D.A.’s office declined comment on anything to do with a possible delay in the Weinstein case when contacted by Deadline. Reps for Weinstein and his team also had no did not respond to request for comment on the matter.
However, for one of the new defense lawyers, there is another battle brewing back East. A growing chorus of Harvard students are demanding that Sullivan — the university’s criminal justice institute director and faculty dean at Harvard’s Winthrop House residence — resign from Weinstein’s defense team ASAP. Protests and petitions have started popping up questioning his association with Weinstein. The school is currently trying to dampen the uproar with offers of counselors to talk to members of the student body, and Sullivan himself has spoken out on the concern.
On January 25, Sullivan did send an email to students explaining why he joined his frequent courtroom partner Baez on the case. Noting that some might find the likes of Weinstein to be “vile,” he asserted it is “particularly important for this category of unpopular defendant to receive the same process as everyone else ― perhaps even more important.”
The likely delay attempt in the Weinstein case also comes as lawyers for Ashley Judd recently rejected a motion by Weinstein to pause the actor’s retaliation case against the producer because of the NYC-based criminal case.
“Ms. Judd will be sensitive to the scheduling of Weinstein’s criminal trial,” noted the opposition filing in federal court in Los Angeles last week. “But there is no reason why he cannot testify under oath about, among other things, what he said to filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh about Ms. Judd,” the document penned by the Berlin Station actor’s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP lawyers adds (read it here).
“Weinstein makes no effort to show how even questions about Weinstein conditioning work on sex would result in evidence that could be admitted in his criminal trial for rape and criminal sexual acts,” the 22-page response notes, with an aside calling Weinstein’s initial stay motion “a cookie-cutter brief that is almost identical to stay motions he previously filed in at least two other cases.”
Claiming intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, Judd’s initial five-count suit in part revolves around a December 2017 exclusive by Deadline that director Jackson and producer Walsh wanted to cast the A Time to Kill actor in 1998 in their Miramax-backed and Weinstein-produced The Lord of the Rings movies.
Judd’s lawsuit proclaimed that, in retaliation for the actor sexually rebuffing the producer, Weinstein “torpedoed Ms. Judd’s incredible professional opportunity” when he told Jackson and Walsh “that [his] studio had had a ‘bad experience’ with Ms. Judd, and that Ms. Judd was a ‘nightmare’ to work with and should be avoided ‘at all costs.’ “
“While Ms. Judd now claims that Mr. Weinstein has sought to ‘smear his accusers’, it is Judd herself who has sought to further disparage Mr. Weinstein with unproven accusations in public,” said Weinstein’s lawyer in this case Phyllis Kupferstein Thursday.
Judd’s case is penciled in to go to trial early next year.
Along with being accused by Judd and more than 60 other women of sexual assault or sexual harassment, Weinstein is under investigation by federal prosecutors as well as the probe by the Manhattan D.A.’s office and the NYPD. Additional allegations against Weinstein have been reviewed by the LAPD, which sent an initial trio of cases to the L.A. County D.A. on February 8. Another case was handed over to that same office in in August. As UK police continue their investigation, the Beverly Hills Police on January 2 passed two cases of sexual assault its says occurred in their jurisdiction to Lacey’s office.