The case against Harvey Weinstein will continue in the new year, with a New York Supreme Court judge setting March 7 as a preliminary trial date in the ongoing sexual assault case against the fallen mogul.
Speculation had been mounting in recent weeks that the entire case would be dismissed, but Judge James Burke decided to let all counts stand against Weinstein and have the case proceed to trial.
Lisa Borders, CEO of Time’s Up, attended the hearing, as did supporters including actresses Marisa Tomei, Amber Tamblyn, Jennifer Esposito and Kathy Najimy. In a tweet, Tamblyn called the outcome a “small victory,” but added, “there’s a long way to go. We’ll be there again on March 7th and look forward to seeing him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Burke’s six-page decision (read it HERE) said “there is no basis for the defendant’s claim of prosecutorial or law enforcement misconduct in the proceedings, or pervasive falsity in and around the grand jury presentation. Dismissing the case altogether would be an “exceptional remedy,” he added. Burke also denied a separate defense motion to hold hearings to determine which witnesses would be allowed to testify, determining that such matters can be tackled during the trial phase.
The action in the Lower Manhattan courtroom was brief and largely took place at the judge’s bench rather than open court. Prosecutors and defense attorneys conferred with Burke for about 10 minutes, but largely about logistics.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the lead prosecutor in the case, declined to comment on her way out of the courthouse.
The case has carried symbolic weight given that the accusations against Weinstein in the fall of 2017 kicked off the #MeToo movement in earnest. Immediately after the ruling, defense attorney Benjamin Brafman told reporters on the courthouse steps that he was “disappointed” by the decision, but added that he remains confident Weinstein would be exonerated.
“This is not about the #MeToo movement,” Brafman said. “This is about a criminal case.” In a statement later, he added, “Nothing in the court’s ruling removes the flawed theory of this case that we intend to vigorously defend at trial.”
Gloria Allred, an attorney who has represented Weinstein accusers, disputed Brafman’s contention that the #MeToo movement created and un-level playing field for Weinstein. “This indictment was not based on the #MeToo movement,” she said. “It was based on evidence and testimony before the grand jury.”
In a one-minute appearance before reporters, Borders said, “We are relieved that Harvey Weinstein failed in his efforts to avoid accountability for his actions, and we are very happy that none of the charges were dismissed.” She did not take questions, and the large Time’s Up contingent also ignored questions as they walked briskly up Centre Street, Manhattan’s flagship legal corridor, where Michael Cohen recently received his prison sentence.
Dozens of reporters and camera crews packed the courtroom and hallways, chasing the principals down the hall and out toward the street after the brief proceeding. Weinstein stared straight ahead and wore a serious expression as he walked slowly to the car. He did not acknowledge the shouts of reporters and a handful of activists lining the barricades.
In October, the judge dismissed one of the counts against Weinstein due to missteps by a police detective during his questioning of witnesses. That move led to a series of articles, including by prestige outlets like the New York Times and National Public Radio, positing that the case could fall apart.
Brafman has continued to hammer away at the D.A.’s case in numerous media appearances, suggesting the defense has a cache of emails between Weinstein and his alleged victims, which he believes support Weinstein’s insistence that all of his sexual encounters have been consensual. Allred dismissed the possibility that the emails would deal a blow to the prosecution. “I totally disagree with the theory of the defense,” she said, citing other cases she has worked on where attempts to show emails between perpetrators and victims have not borne fruit.
Along with being accused by more than 60 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 passed two cases of sexual assault that they say occurred in their jurisdiction to LA D.A. Jackie Lacey’s office on January 2.