EXCLUSIVE: The second official day of Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial for rape in New York City may be the last – at for a while, if the producer gets his way.
Following Weinstein being charged with four counts of sexual assault by the Los Angeles County District Attorney earlier today, lawyers for the much-accused producer are contemplating on asking for an adjournment in the Manhattan case on Tuesday morning, I’ve learned. However, the Donna Rotunno-led defense team also seemingly anticipate getting a fair amount of pushback to their request from Empire State Supreme Court Justice James Burke, as well as the office of Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. and chief prosecutor Deputy D.A Joan Illuzzi-Orbon,
Neither reps for Weinstein and his legal team nor the Manhattan D.A.’s office had any comment tonight on the potential adjournment request.
Which is not surprising in a case that has been significantly delayed twice, has attracted vast media attention and, getting started almost two years after Weinstein was arrested in 2018, is presumed to run for eight weeks after two weeks of jury selection among hundreds of possible candidates.
Also assumed to be on the agenda on what was supposed to be the first day of at least a week of jury pre-screening will be working out housekeeping matter like the timing of Weinstein being formally arrested in the Big Apple on the West Coast charges. With L.A. D.A. Jackie Lacey and Deputy D.A. Paul Thompson of the Sex Crimes Division announcing Monday that they will seek $5 million in bail for the accused, that topic will have to be sorted out too.
If today’s sometimes pitched pre-trial motions and loose ends hearing in lower Manhattan was any blueprint, most of the adjournment attempt will occur in public court, but up at the bench. That means most of the discussion will be out of earshot of attendees like jury contenders and the 67-year old Weinstein himself, who is expected to be in court.
Prophetically, possible cases in other jurisdictions were addressed as something not to be addressed in Justice Burke’s 15th floor courtroom this chilly Manhattan morning. Now, the introduction of the L.A. case, and the 28 years of imprisonment Weinstein could be facing if found guilty on the West Coast, obviously runs the risk of making the already difficult task of seating 12 impartial jurors all the “laborious,” to quote Justice Burke slightly out of context from earlier Monday.
Over 2,000 extra jury summonses were sent out for the highly published Weinstein case with both sides, for different reasons, and Justice Burke desperate to find people who haven’t made up their minds about the five felony charges and possible life behind bars the producer is looking at.
In many ways, with Lacey confirming in a press conference that the LA case will almost certainly wait until the NYC case is over and done, the Hail Mary of an adjournment request that seems surely doomed is a checking of a box for the defense team, who have long insisted Weinstein can’t get a totally fair trial in media drenched Manhattan. By making their move now, Rotunno, co-counsel Arthur Aidala and the other Weinstein attorneys will give themselves another layer of legal fortitude if they have to move for an appeal for their client later this year for the long game.
First arrested in late May 2018 in New York and around seven months after a series of exposes were published in the New York Times and the New Yorker, 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 East Coast trial. Subject to travel restrictions reinforced last August 7, and reiterated to some degree in today’s hearing, the Pulp Fiction 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. He has always claimed all his sexual interactions were totally consensual.
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 women who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002, Weinstein is also facing allegations from more than 60 other women that he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them. At present, a number of those women are still reluctantly participating in the floated $25 million settlement that is part of an overall $45 million deal on the table. As well the L.A. charges of today and the NYC rape trial, 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.