Defense lawyers for Harvey Weinstein want the judge in the disgraced producer’s rape trial to recuse himself from the New York case after he threatened the Pulp Fiction executive producer yesterday with prison time over incessant cell phone use in court.
“These comments reflect the Court’s animus towards the Defendant and have created a situation in which the Court’s ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned,’ in violation of New York State’s Rules of Judicial Conduct,” asserts a letter that co-counsel Arthur Aidala said in a letter dated January 8 to New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke this afternoon (read it here). “Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life by texting in violation of an order?” the often even tempered Burke snapped at Weinstein in the comments in question on the second official day of what is blueprinted as a long trial.
“This animus is supported and compounded by the Court’s failure to adequately safeguard Mr. Weinstein’s right to a fair and impartial jury in this case,” added the latest tactic by the defense to either delay this just started trial or spread seeds for an inevitable appeal if things go badly in the end. “Faced with extreme and unfairly prejudicial negative publicity both pre-trial and now during jury selection, this Court has refused the defendant’s requests for additional necessary procedural safeguards.”
“It has become clear to Mr. Weinstein that the Court has already violated its own mandate to the potential jurors by deciding that Mr. Weinstein is guilty before it has heard any of the trial evidence,” Aidala continues.
On a day expected to be dominated by more extensive jury selection pre-screening, the paperwork follows Weinstein’s crew coming up short in the past 36 hours alone with an adjournment request based on recent rape and battery charges from the Los Angeles County District Attorney and a motion today to have lawyer Gloria Allred banned from the 15th floor courtroom at the Criminal Courts Building in lower Manhattan. Before the anticipated eight-week long trial even started, the defense tried to have the case moved out of the Big Apple because of the heavy media coverage and their POV that any potential locally sourced jury is already tainted.
“For the foregoing reasons, Mr. Weinstein respectfully requests that the Court recuse itself from this matter and that it be reassigned to another judge. In the alternative, Mr. Weinstein respectfully requests the following relief: ( 1) an adjournment of the trial to permit the extreme negative publicity generated by the LA charges to dissipate, (2) more time to conduct voir dire, and (3) that Mr. Weinstein’s trial consultant be permitted to sit at counsel table during voir dire, to consult with the rest of the trial team,” the scathing and graphically enhanced correspondence concludes.
Of course, having been round and round with Weinstein’s various defense teams over the months since the producer’s arrest almost two years ago, Judge Burke is 99.9% expected even by the producer’s lawyers to quickly reject the recuse request when court resumes in NYC tomorrow morning. With the 67-year old and seemingly ailing Weinstein facing life in an Empire State prison if found guilty on the New York charges, the recuse move was made public just as today’s jury selection pre-screening concluded.
New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s office had no comment on the recuse request when contact by Deadline. Yesterday, after Judge Burke decided not to imprison Weinstein over his texting in the court, Deputy D.A. Joan Illuzzi-Orbon tried and failed to have the hobbled producer taken into custody over flight risk fears from the NYC charges and the 28-years he could be looking at if found guilty in the L.A. case. The seasoned prosecutor also was opposed to the blunted adjournment bid by the defense team, as you would expect.
Like Tuesday, around 120 prospective jurors went through the pre-screening process in court today. Also similar to yesterday, over 40 of those individuals offered a variety of reasons why they feel they could not be impartial in the matter. One female potential juror told Judge Burke, Weinstein and the assemble lawyers that she has “a very close friend who had an encounter with the defendant.”
In the slightly shorter than usual day, 50 individuals were dismissed from going to the next stage of being asked to serve on this jury. After the recuse effort is addressed, more jury selection is assumed to take up most of Thursday’s session with hundreds more people to come before the judge and attorneys over the next several days.
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. Subject to travel restrictions reinforced last August 7, the 67-year-old 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 more than 80 other women that he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them. At present, a number of those women are still reluctantly participating in the potential $25 million settlement that is part of an overall $45 million deal on the table. In addition to the multiple sexual assault charges that the LA, D.A. announced on January 6 and the NYC rape trial itself, Weinstein is also still currently under investigation by federal prosecutors as well as other probes by the Manhattan D.A.’s office, the NYPD, the LAPD and more globally.
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