Harvey Weinstein was led into a New York courtroom in handcuffs this morning and entered a plea of not guilty to charges of committing a forcible sexual act in the first degree.
Along with the plea, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Burke heard but did not rule on prosecutors’ demands for a more stringent bail arrangement. The debate about bail took up most of the 15-minute arraignment.
Weinstein, who wore a black suit and tie, has been out on $1 million bail and staying at his longtime family home in Connecticut in recent months. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, the lead prosecutor, began the proceeding by asking that Weinstein instead be confined to house arrest in Manhattan given the more serious charges he now faces.
Last month, the Manhattan District Attorney hit Weinstein with heavier charges than he had previously been facing in New York, a more serious degree of sexual assault which could potentially put him in prison for life. The charge of committing a forcible sexual act in the first degree pertains to the allegations of a third woman, following the previous case based on the accounts of two other women.
“He’s obviously a man of substantial resources,” Iluzzi said, so obtaining a property for home confinement would not be an issue. Weinstein’s Connecticut home for the past 23 years, she said, should no longer an option because records show that it has been sold.
Lead defense attorney Benjamin Brafman affirmed that the home has been sold, but said a stipulation of the sale was that Weinstein could stay in the house until February 2019. “It is simply not reasonable or appropriate” to change the bail setup, Brafman said, because Weinstein has complied with all demands from prosecutors to date (a point that Illuzzi conceded).
Brafman argued that effectively Weinstein already is pretty effectively confined, albeit not to a single home. “The only place he goes these days is my office, to a Manhattan office where he is trying to make a living, and to doctor’s appointments in Connecticut,” he said.
Plus, he added, “Ultimately, press would recognize where he is living and he would have a circus atmosphere around his house.”
There was something less than a circus outside the courtroom this morning, with the atmosphere far more subdued than Weinstein’s previous arraignment in June. A couple of TV satellite trucks were parked across the street, and about three dozen members of the media filled the courtroom. But there were no protesters or shouting reporters lining the courthouse steps.
Among those in the courtroom was Gloria Allred, who has represented several of Weinstein’s victims. She did not react when Brafman, in an aside during his remarks, accused her of carefully scripting a YouTube statement by one of the accusers, choreographing it to such an extent that she was mouthing the words as the victim read them off the page.
Weinstein still faces nearly a dozen lawsuits filed by some of the 80 women who have accused him of sexual assault and harassment. In addition to the New York criminal proceedings, authorities in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and the UK are also pursuing potential criminal charges.
The Oscar-winning producer, whose namesake company is also due to conclude its bankruptcy sale this week, is next scheduled to appear in court on September 12.
In a statement released after the arraignment, Brafman expressed pleasure at the judge’s decision to keep the bail conditions the same. “The case has not grown stronger for the prosecution,” he added. “Indeed, since his arrest in May, his defense has grown substantially stronger as we have found overwhelming corroboration well beyond Mr. Weinstein’s assertions that support his claim that all sexual encounters were consensual and that he did not rape anyone.”