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Harvey Weinstein: US court overturns 2020 rape conviction

April 25, 2024

A New York appeals court has ordered a new trial in the landmark case that drove the #MeToo movement. The majority opinion argued that the judge committed serious errors and swayed jurors by admitting invalid testimony.

Harvey Weinstein
In a separate 2023 case, the disgraced former movie mogul was also convicted of raping a woman in Los AngelesImage: Etienne Laurent/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

A New York appeals court on Thursday overturned 2020 sex crime charges against former Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and ordered a new trial.

The court said in a 4-3 decision that it found errors in the landmark trial that helped drive the #MeToo movement

Why was the New York Weinstein ruling overturned?

New York's Court of Appeals argued that the previous ruling had committed serious errors by admitting invalid testimony.

"We conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes," the court's majority opinion said.

"The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial," it declared.

"It is an abuse of judicial discretion to permit untested allegations of nothing more than bad behavior that destroys a defendant's character but sheds no light on their credibility as related to the criminal charges lodged against them," the court said.

In making the appeal, Weinstein's lawyers had argued that judge James Burke swayed the trial by allowing three women to testify that weren't part of the case.

Dissenting Judge Madeline Singas said that the majority was "whitewashing the facts to conform to a he-said/she-said narrative."

She said that this continued a "disturbing trend of overturning juries' guilty verdicts in cases involving sexual violence."

"The majority's determination perpetuates outdated notions of sexual violence and allows predators to escape accountability," she argued.

Weinstein verdict is 'sending shock waves': Jayson Campadonia from Los Angeles

Weinstein accusers call reversal 'unjust'

"The news today is not only disheartening, but it's profoundly unjust," said a group of women called the "silence breakers" who banded together to reveal sexual misconduct against Weinstein and others. 

"But this ruling does not diminish the validity of our experiences or our truth; it's merely a setback," the group said in a statement. "We will continue to fight for justice for survivors everywhere."

Manhattan district attorney spokesperson Emily Tuttle said the office would "do everything in its power" to retry the case, and "remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault."

Arthur Aidala, the head of Weinstein's legal team, told reporters that "we knew that Harvey Weinstein did not get a fair trial."

"There are some people who are very unpopular in our society, but we still have to apply the law fairly to them," he said. 

What was Harvey Weinstein convicted of?

Weinstein has been serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison following his conviction on charges of criminal sex act for sexually assaulting a production assistant in 2006 and rape in the third degree for attacking an aspiring actress in 2013.

The conviction had stood for more than four years.

The film producer was also convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 in another rape case and was sentenced to 16 years, meaning he will stay in prison even as the New York ruling is overturned. The New York Times reported that Weinstein remains convicted in California, and will be moved to prison there. 

Weinstein's trials came after dozens of allegations against him surfaced in 2017, which prompted a global reckoning over sexual misconduct and abuse in the film industry.

sdi/wmr (AP, Reuters, AFP)