Once thought blocked, the long road to a global settlement for victims of Harvey Weinstein got a green light of sorts today in federal court.
A Delaware judge Wednesday allowed attorneys for debtors to start contacting potential Weinstein victims who might want to file claims in the more than two-year-old bankruptcy case of the imprisoned mogul.
The move at a hearing by Judge Mary Walrath in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware unlocked a step in the process. It didn’t address a controversial revised settlement that emerged overnight Tuesday, which was excoriated by attorneys of some victims. That settlement shrank the pot of cash available to victims but also eliminated a payout to reimburse Weinstein’s legal costs.
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On the legal costs, “Judge Hellerstein called that obnoxious, and we heard that,” said Paul Zumbro of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, speaking for debtors at the hearing, referring to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein who rejected the initial proposal in July. “The settlement has gone down, but it is an overall improvement,” Zumbro said, reflecting “complex and hard-fought compromise between conflicting stakeholders.”
“What was described in court today is a very misleading view of a plan which will compromise survivors’ rights to pursue claims against all of the defendants involved in the case, including Harvey Weinstein. And there are many, many problematic elements of that plan that we intend to make the court aware of. But that will come in due course,” attorney Kevin Mintzer told Deadline.
Walrath didn’t comment on the revised settlement. It would allow victims to pursue the disgraced executive in court even while retaining 25% of their claim. The $35 million plan includes a $17 million sexual misconduct claims fund. But the amount available to each claimant won’t be clear until the number of claimants are determined. A debtors’ attorney spoke of notifying potentially 60,000 people who had contact with Weinstein via email, fax, the Hollywood trades, the New York Post, the Toronto Star, industry guilds and groups.
Mintzer and Douglas Wigdor represent Weinstein victims Wedil David, Dominique Huett, Kaja Sokola, Rowena Chiu, Zelda Perkins and Tarale Wulff. They are working with Scott Leonhartd of the Rosner Law Group in Wilmington, DE as bankruptcy counsel, and even as the bankruptcy hearings proceed are attempting to move them from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, which entails total liquidation.
“Let’s work on language and I will overrule any objection” to sending out notice, the judge said. “I agree with the debtors that it should go forward and resolve if not all the class, a large percentage of it.”
On February 24, after a NYC trial that lasted almost two months, Weinstein was found guilty of two sex crime felony charges. Allegedly suffering from a litany of health issues that saw him in and out of Bellevue Hospital, Weinstein was sentenced to more than two decades in state prison on March 11.
Weinstein has not yet filed an appeal in the New York trial, despite repeated assurances for months from his Manhattan attorneys that one would be coming soon.
Already having seen the COVID-19 pandemic repeatedly delay his extradition to Los Angeles on multiple rape and sex-crime charges, including an April 10-added charge of sexual battery by restraint, the one-time coronavirus-infected Pulp Fiction executive producer is presently out of isolation and serving time at the Wende facility in upstate New York. In a case unrelated to the L.A. D.A. matter, the 68-year-old Weinstein has also been accused of raping a 17-year-old in 1994 in a May 29 jury trial-seeking suit.
Besides the apparent axing of the global settlement, Weinstein also recently failed to get a sex-trafficking class action tossed out, and he is the subject of a more recent lawsuit from a woman who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002. As well as a recently renewed sexual harassment case from Ashley Judd, Weinstein is facing allegations from close to 100 other women who say he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.
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