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Harvey Weinstein’s conviction overturned by top New York court



Harvey Weinstein’s conviction overturned by top New York court

NEW YORK – Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 conviction for sexual assault and rape was overturned on April 25 by New York’s highest court, reopening the landmark case that launched the #MeToo movement and highlighting the challenges of holding powerful men accountable.

In a 4-3 decision, the state’s Court of Appeals said the trial judge had made a mistake by letting prosecutors introduce testimony from women who claimed that Weinstein assaulted them, even though they were not part of the charges he faced.

The appeals court also said the trial judge compounded the error by letting Weinstein be cross-examined in a way that portrayed him in a “highly prejudicial” light.

“It is an abuse of judicial discretion to permit untested allegations of nothing more than bad behaviour that destroys a defendant’s character but sheds no light on their credibility as related to the criminal charges,” Judge Jenny Rivera wrote for the majority.

“The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial,” she added.

In a sharp dissent, Judge Madeline Singas said the decision “perpetuates outdated notions of sexual violence and allows predators to escape accountability”.

She also accused the majority of “whitewashing the facts” and continuing a “disturbing trend” of overturning jury verdicts in sexual violence cases.

Former comedian Bill Cosby saw his 2018 sexual assault conviction overturned three years later by Pennsylvania’s highest court. It said a 2005 agreement not to charge Cosby with drugging and assaulting a woman meant he should not have been charged a decade later.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose predecessor, Mr Cyrus Vance, brought the case, will have to decide how to proceed against Weinstein.

“We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault,” said Ms Emily Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Mr Bragg.

Weinstein, 72, has been serving a 23-year prison sentence after being convicted in February 2020 of sexually assaulting a former production assistant in 2006, and raping an aspiring actress in 2013.

Mr Bragg’s office is separately in the midst of a criminal hush money trial against former US president Donald Trump.

It was not immediately clear how the decision would affect Weinstein, who has been serving his sentence in upstate New York. Even if he were not retried, he still faces a 16-year prison sentence in California after being convicted there in 2023 for the 2013 rape of an actress in Los Angeles.

The Weinstein verdict was considered a milestone for the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused hundreds of men in entertainment, media, politics and other fields of sexual misconduct.

“Today’s decision is a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence,” said Mr Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer who represented eight of Weinstein’s accusers. “It will require the victims to endure yet another trial.”

Weinstein co-founded the Miramax film studio, whose hit movies included Shakespeare In Love and Pulp Fiction. His own eponymous film studio filed for bankruptcy in March 2018.

ALSO READ: Actress Julia Ormond sues Harvey Weinstein for sexual battery

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