The mother of one of Harvey Weinstein’s former attorneys and one of America’s most well-known lawyers was the object of the Oscar-winning producer’s legal derision on the third day of his rape trial in New York City this morning.
“I am not trying to attack Ms. Allred, I am trying to protect Mr. Weinstein’s right to a fair trial,” defense attorney Damon Cheronis told Empire State Supreme Court Judge James Burke on Wednesday in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to have lawyer Gloria Allred barred from attending the proceedings. “Ms. Allred should not be allowed to sit in court, watch that testimony and share that testimony with her clients,” the lawyer continued.
The high-profile Allred represents Mimi Helayi, one of the two women at the center of this criminal case. Allred is also working with several of the more than 80 woman who have publicly proclaimed over the past two years that Weinstein sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them.
Facing five felony counts in this case, the 67-year-old Weinstein is looking at a sentence of life in state prison if found guilty. He is also now facing 28 years behind bars if found guilty for multiple sexual assault charges out of Los Angeles that were made public this week.
Absent from court this morning after being here previously, the media-savvy Allred is the mother of attorney Lisa Bloom, who represented Weinstein as reports of his alleged vile behavior were published in late 2017. Allred’s name was among the dozens — including Charlize Theron, lawyer David Boies and the now shuttered The Weinstein Company itself — read out in court Tuesday to potential jurors as either witnesses or that could be mentioned in the trial.
As Cheronis remarked, the motion Wednesday by the defense orbited around the notion that Allred would influence her clients and her own possible testimony by reporting back to them what had been said in court.
“They believe that a lawyer in this courtroom would do something untoward,” responded Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the Manhattan Deputy D.A. and this case’s chief prosecutor. “In that case, let’s exclude every single person in this courtroom,” she added, pointing to the assembled media in the 15th-floor courtroom on the state Criminal Court Building, and how they will report on testimony in the case that Allred could just as easily read as anyone else.
“Even if Ms. Allred was called as an impeachment witness, there would be no actual harm for her having observed the trial…it might even advance things in terms of efficiency,” concluded Judge Burke after both sides spoke. “She may remain, and she will be on the witness list.”
“Harvey Weinstein’s defense appeared to want to interfere with my ability to represent my three clients who will be witnesses in his trial by the asking the Court to exclude me from the courtroom on the basis that they intend to call me a witness in the criminal trial,” Allred said as part of a statement later in the day. “I am pleased that the Court denied their request to exclude me from the courtroom. I will consider my options regarding the defense wanting to call me as an impeachment witness.”
After the early housekeeping of sorts, like Tuesday the bulk of this third official day of the trial will mainly be consumed with jury pre-screening starting just after 10:30 AM ET. Similar to January 7, batches of around 125 individuals who received jury summonses will be brought into the medium-sized courtroom to be briefed and queried by the judge.
Yesterday started off with a dramatic morning session that almost saw Weinstein tossed behind bars by a clearly angry Burke for using his cell phone in court despite repeated orders not to. Tuesday also saw the Manhattan D.A.’s office unsuccessfully seeking to have the defendant remanded into custody in lieu of the rape and sexual battery charges that came out of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office January 6.
However, after those fireworks and a blunted move by the defense for an adjournment, the second day of the high-profile trial became preoccupied with the process of elimination. Over 40 potential jurors proclaimed they could not be impartial and were dismissed. A fair number of college attendees were also let go from what is blueprinted as an eight-week affair once opening arguments begin January 21 — if they make that schedule. At the end of the day Tuesday, about 35 potential jurors were sent home with a questionnaire and told to come back to court next week.
This morning, Illuzzi-Orbon entered the initially sparsely attended courtroom around 9:05 AM ET with her colleague and fellow Deputy D.A. Meghan Hast. As usual, with defense lawyers and other reps in tow and surrounded by court police officers, a shuffling Weinstein followed soon afterward. Still supposedly suffering the fallout of a car accident last summer, the King’s Speech EP was leaning heavily on the tennis ball-cushioned walker that he has been using since late last year. The one-time would-be mogul sat by himself in the first row, with his head down and no cell phone to text on.
As has been the case on previous days, and is often true in many adversarial cases, the dark-suited lawyers from both sides chatted together at the front of the court, sometimes with crossed arms and sometimes with smiles and muffled laughter, for several minutes as they awaited the judge’s arrival.
Burke entered from his chambers at 9:24 AM ET to begin the day formally and put on his robes at the bench. Once he sat down, Weinstein moved up to the defense table and could be seen scribbling on yellow legal pads placed in front of him as he had the day before. Not long after that, Weinstein and his walker exited the courtroom out a side door escorted by police. He returned at 9:50 AM ET and again sat at the defense table.
Spurred on by a request from Illuzzi-Orbon as Wednesday’s proceeding began, both prosecutors and the defense team huddled at the bench in front of Burke for 10 minutes, discussing what we now know was the Allred matter.
At one point, as the attorneys spoke with the judge in hushed tones, Weinstein co-counsel Arthur Aidala peeled away from the gathering to accept some documents from an associate in the room. As he returned to the group, a comment from an animated Burke clearly made the lawyer laugh as discussion continued a few minutes more and construction noise from the street far below filled the room.
About 10 more minutes later, at 9:47 AM ET, and after consulting with clerks and police officers, Burke beckoned the lawyers back. After that the parties went back on the record and the Allred issue was addressed in open court.
Having gotten that behind them, the overarching search for a jury came back to the fore. With over 2,000 jury summonses sent out for the media-spotlighted case in addition to the usual 200 or so summonses, all parties acknowledge that finding a truly impartial jury of 12 is going to be a long, complicated and, to quote =Burke from January 6, “laborious” road.
Jury pre-screening is anticipated to last until early next week, with actual jury selection to start January 16 if everything goes to plan.
First arrested in late May 2018, Weinstein is facing multiple 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 in the NYC case. Subject to travel restrictions reinforced last August 7, the producer is now out on a $5 million bail after first entering a not guilty plea on July 9 last year. Weinstein entered a plea of not guilty again on August 26 this year when a new indictment was added.
Accused by Ashley Judd in a now temporarily halted case, failing to get a sex-trafficking class action tossed out, and a more recent lawsuit from a woman who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002, Weinstein is also facing allegations from nearly 100 women that he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them. At present, a number of those women are still reluctantly participating in the proposed $25 million settlement that is part of an overall $45 million deal on the table.
In addition to the L.A. charges and the NYC trial, Weinstein is also still under investigation by federal prosecutors as well as other probes by the Manhattan D.A.’s office, the NYPD, the LAPD and more around the world.
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