Now back behind bars in New York to start serving the 23-year prison sentence he was handed today, Harvey Weinstein’s appeal may have to get in line behind sex crimes charges the much-accused producer is facing in the City of Angels.
“The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has begun the process of extraditing defendant Weinstein to California to face the sexual assault charges that were filed in January,” a spokesperson for D.A. Jackie Lacey said Wednesday just a few hours after Weinstein was given a near maximum sentence for his conviction on first-degree sexual assault and three years for third-degree rape in the Empire State.
“No arraignment date has been set,” the L.A. D.A.’s office added. “Once a date has been set, our office will notify the public.”
Outside the Criminal Courts building in NYC today, the defense team noted that Weinstein’s appeal may not come until July – a surprising distance down the calendar. Long having indicated that they plan to cite evidence that Weinstein received an unfair trial due to judicial, media and even jury bias, the Donna Rotunno-led defense lawyers have been working on the appeal literally before the trial started in early January.
In a Golden State case that is widely considered stronger than the case that just saw the 67-year old Weinstein get what is essentially life imprisonment, that L.A. arraignment could actually come in the next few weeks, sources close to the bi-coastal matter tell me.
As the long simmering East Coast case finally went to trial in Judge James Burke’s lower Manhattan courtroom on January 6, Lacey with near perfect media timing made public in a well-covered L.A. press conference that Weinstein was being charged with multiple felony counts from “raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013.”
With law enforcement and staff from her Sex Crimes division by her side, third term-seeking Lacey asserted that “once the defendant’s case is completed in New York, we expect him to appear in a courtroom in Los Angeles County to face the charges.”
Whether or not it is Jackie Lacey who oversees that trial remains to be seen as it looks like the incumbent will now have to face primary challenger and former San Fran D.A. George Gascón in a run-off election this November.
In terms of the case back East, Rotunno said Wednesday the convicted mogul’s appeal will rest on factors from the decision to allow Molineaux witnesses, to “the way the jury was selected,” to “juror number 11” in particular, discovery violations and the 23-year sentence – which she called “extreme sentencing.” Molineaux allows witnesses – in this case actress Annabella Sciorra and three other women – to testify to prior bad acts to support formal accusations. The 11th juror chosen had written a novel about predatory older men and their relationships with younger women.
“We can go on and on,” the Chicago-based defense attorney told reporters outside the courthouse today. “I think the judge took things into consideration that never should have been taken into consideration,” she said.
Additionally, with appeal always on the event horizon, Weinstein himself wanted to testify in his case, Rotunno remarked, but his team nixed that because of a Sandoval ruling early on that would have allowed testimony of what “Harvey as a person” – separate from any of the sexual assault accusations. “As much as he would have loved to tell his story … we had to weigh that out.”
Flanking Rotunno, fellow defense attorney Damian Cheronisalso blamed the intense media coverage. “Think about it. In the middle of jury selection there’s a flash mob outside chanting. And the judge says people are always outside chanting. Every single minute of this case was engineered for this moment.”
First arrested New York in late May 2018, Weinstein initially faced two 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 New York. Subject to travel restrictions reinforced last August 7, he had been out on a $5 million bail after entering a not guilty plea on July 9, 2018. Weinstein entered a plea of not guilty again on August 26 last 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 the subject of a more recent lawsuit from a woman who says he abused her when she was 16 in 2002, Weinstein is also facing allegations from close to 100 other women who say he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them. At present, several of those individuals are refusing to participate in a potential $25 million over-arching settlement that is part of an overall $45 million deal on the table.
Though a release of case files on the NYC case made headlines yesterday, news on the supposed settlement had been DOA quiet for months. However, on March 9, several Weinstein accusers publicly called on New York Attorney General Letitia James to reject that proposed multimillion-dollar settlement with Weinstein and his former company. The women called the terms “insulting” to all survivors and financially detrimental to accusers who choose not to take part in the agreement.