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What does Harvey Weinstein’s New York ruling mean for his California rape conviction?



Harvey Weinstein was already expected to spend the remainder of his life in prison for crimes in New York when a Los Angeles jury found him guilty of rape and sexual assault in 2022 and he was sentenced to an additional 16 years.

But on Thursday New York’s top court overturned Weinstein’s 2020 conviction for two sex crimes and found he should receive a new trial, and the California case has taken on even greater significance.

“Some thought the [Los Angeles] case to be superfluous,” said Elizabeth Fegan, a lawyer for some Weinstein accusers. “Now we realize how important it was.”

Weinstein’s attorneys have argued that his conviction in New York affected his case in Los Angeles, and the development Thursday has raised concerns about the impact the court’s ruling will have on his effort to appeal in California.

As attorneys for Weinstein celebrated the New York court’s ruling, they said they were optimistic it would bolster efforts to appeal against his rape conviction in Los Angeles.

During a press conference on Thursday, Arthur Aidala, Weinstein’s lawyer, who called the ruling a “great day for America”, suggested that the evidence for appeal was even stronger in California.

“A jury was told in California that he was convicted in another state for rape … Turns out he shouldn’t have been convicted, and it wasn’t a fair conviction,” said Jennifer Bonjean, Weinstein’s lawyer in California who is appealing his conviction. “It interfered with his presumption of innocence in a significant way in California.”

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office said it was saddened by the New York court’s decision, but that it was confident the California conviction would stand.

Weinstein, 72, had been serving a 23-year prison sentence after a criminal conviction in New York in 2020 for two sex crimes. In 2022, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of rape and sexual assault. The convictions were hailed as major victories in the #MeToo movement, which was galvanized by the mass of women who came forward with accusations against Weinstein.

The New York court of appeals ruled the judge who oversaw Weinstein’s 2020 trial unfairly allowed testimony against him from other women whose allegations were not part of the case.

“[Weinstein] was convicted by a jury for various sexual crimes against three named complainants and, on appeal, claims that he was judged, not on the conduct for which he was indicted, but on irrelevant, prejudicial, and untested allegations of prior bad acts,” the court stated in Thursday’s decision.

As for whether Weinstein will face another trial, prosecutors in New York said “we will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault”.

He will remain jailed in New York while he awaits his next trial, Aidala said. His conviction in California still stands but is under review by a state appeals court.

The Mohawk correctional facility in New York, where Weinstein will remain jailed as he awaits a new trial. Photograph: Caitlin Louisa Eddolls/Reuters

Weinstein’s lawyer Mark Werksman told the Los Angeles Times that he “faced the same fundamental unfairness in the Los Angeles case, where the judge let the jury hear about four uncharged allegations of sexual assault”.

“Harvey was subjected to a firehose of uncharged and incredible allegations which destroyed his right to a fair trial on the charges in the indictment. The case here should be reversed for the same reasons the New York case was reversed.”

Unlike New York, California law permits “propensity evidence in sexual assault cases subject to the judge’s discretion”, which allowed prosecutors to use evidence of Weinstein’s sexual assaults in other jurisdictions, the LA district attorney’s office said in a statement.

“Although we do not know what arguments the defense will raise on appeal, we are confident that our convictions will withstand appellate scrutiny. Our office stands ready to see that Mr Weinstein faces the serious consequences of his deplorable conduct.”

Legal analysts have said that Weinstein faces a difficult path to getting his conviction in California overturned.

“Harvey Weinstein’s appeal of his Los Angeles conviction faces an uphill battle. A California law passed nearly 30 years ago allows prosecutors to bring in evidence that a sex crime defendant has engaged in prior sexual misconduct. This law has held up on appeal,” said V James DeSimone, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney.

California laws are much more permissive and accepting of prior bad acts and uncharged crime evidence, said Adanté Pointer, an Oakland-based civil rights attorney.

“Most such appeals go down in flames, however, given the wealth and power of this defendant, I am sure he is mounting the best defense money can buy,” he said. “That does not necessarily mean he wins on appeal, but it does certainly mean he will throw the best legal minds at trying to squeeze his appeal through the eye of this legal needle.”

The attorney David Ring, who represents Evgeniya Chernyshova – a Weinstein victim in Los Angeles, said his client was disappointed by the ruling but hopeful.

“Both she and I are confident that Weinstein’s Los Angeles conviction for rape will be upheld,” Ring said. “As the only victim who has now obtained a criminal conviction against Weinstein, she will continue to stand tall and do whatever necessary to obtain justice not only for herself but for all victims.”

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed

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