“A Great Day For America”: Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer Praises Rape Conviction Reversal; Survivors, Anita Hill & Others Condemn Appeals Court Ruling

“It may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not, today’s legal ruling is a great day for America because it instills in us the faith that there is a justice system,” proclaimed Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala today after New York’s Appeals Court threw out his client’s 2020 conviction and ordered a new trial.

“If it’s a former president of the United States or the most storied Hollywood producer of our generation, the law applies to everyone,” Aidala added Thursday just a few feet away from the criminal court building where Donald Trump’s hush money trial is going on right now.

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“It’s like this case begins brand new, like it was …six years ago when he was initially arrested and brought in” the attorney said of what happens next, saying he passed the news of the ruling onto Weinstein early this morning as the order was released.

Currently incarcerated at the medium security Mohawk Correctional Facility in upstate New York, Weinstein will likely be transported to a facility in NYC in the coming weeks to start preparing for his new trial. No dates have been announced yet on when said trial could begin.

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein arrives at a NY court for his 2020 rape trial.

In what reads like a bitterly argued 4-3 ruling, the New York Court of Appeals flipped Weinstein’s felony sex crimes conviction that saw the much accused Pulp Fiction producer hit with a 23-year-sentence four years ago. Judge Jenny Rivera wrote in the majority opinion that the now ex-Justice James Burke “erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes.”

The 72-year old mini-mogul will not be released from state prison in upstate New York because was late 2022 conviction in LA for another rape. Weinstein was sentenced to 16 years in prison in the West Coast case.

Thursday, Aidala speculated that LA case could be revisited too.

“I’m confident that if there’s a trial here in New York, Mr. Weinstein’s insistence on his innocence will come forward and he would be acquitted,” he said. The confident lawyer may be getting a bit too optimistic when it comes to the West Coast verdict.

Unlike the very focused statutes in New York, California does allow Prior Bad Acts evidence or testimony on uncharged incidents to be introduced to into rape cases to illustrate how a defendant has tendencies to commit sex crimes – which is why four women who alleged past uncharged attacks by Weinstein were allowed to give testimony in the producer’s 2022 Golden State trial.

In the Empire State, as was shown with today’s Appeals Court ruling, the criteria is much more specific to a defendant’s motivation in their past.

Though Judge Madeline Singas writing for the Appeals Court minority called today decision a “whitewashing the facts to conform to a he-said/she-said narrative,” Aidala was quick to praise Jusge Rivera for giving his client a possible get out of jail card.

“Today Judge Jenny Rivera, a real real hero for women in on this planet, said you can’t convict someone based on their entire life and everything that they’ve done in their life,” the remaining member of Weinstein’s unsuccessful 2020 defense team exclaimed. “You can’t allow more witnesses to come in and testify against the defendant than the defendant is actually charged.”

Declaring that “Harvey Weinstein did not get a fair trial,” Aidala added, “You can’t throw out 100 years of legal precedent because someone is unpopular.”

As Weinstein’s defense team were standing on the streets of New York revelling in their client’s latest turn of judicial fate, a number of survivors of Weinstein’s vile misconduct were castigating the decision by the Appeals Court

Anita Hill, chair and president of The Hollywood Commission regarding this morning’s decision regarding Harvey Weinstein. 

“Today’s decision reinforces what we already know through our survey of over 13,000 entertainment workers. We have seen a lack of progress in addressing the power imbalances that allow abuse to occur and that sexual assault continues to be a pervasive problem. Many survivors do not pursue justice because they believe nothing will be done. Today’s decision underscores the urgent need for systemic changes in our institutions – and redoubles our commitment to survivors to push for the policies and systems that will ensure accountability and bring about workplaces free from the behavior that drives the need for these systems in the first place.”

Silence Breakers

“The news today is not only disheartening, but it’s profoundly unjust. But this ruling does not diminish the validity of our experiences or our truth; it’s merely a setback. The man found guilty continues to serve time in a California prison. When survivors everywhere broke their silence in 2017, the world changed. We continue to stand strong and advocate for that change. We will continue to fight for justice for survivors everywhere.”

Douglas H. Wigdor who has represented eight Harvey Weinstein victims including two of the Molineux witnesses at the New York criminal trial:

“Today’s decision is a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence.  Courts routinely admit evidence of other uncharged acts where they assist juries in understanding issues concerning the intent, modus operandi or scheme of the defendant.  The jury was instructed on the relevance of this testimony and overturning the verdict is tragic in that it will require the victims to endure yet another trial.”

Lindsay Goldbrum, an attorney at Outten & Golden LLP, has represented six Harvey Weinstein victims including Taralê Wulff, who testified about being sexually assaulted by Weinstein during his criminal trial in New York. Goldbrum also represented several Weinstein victims in individual civil lawsuits, as well as the resolution of their claims as part of a global $17 million settlement with The Weinstein Company.

“This ruling is a leap backward for the rule of law. In New York, Molineux witnesses play a critical role in establishing a defendant’s common scheme or plan to commit alleged crimes. When a defendant is accused of being a sexual predator, especially one as powerful as Weinstein, the testimony of Molineux witnesses is crucial to disproving the defense that sexual encounters were consensual.

“The three brave women who testified as Molineux witnesses had nothing to gain personally from participating in the trial. Their only goal was to give a voice to dozens of other women who suffered so much. Today’s ruling unfortunately casts a dark shadow on their bravery and will undoubtedly deter future sexual assault victims from coming forward.

“To all victims of sexual assault who are retraumatized by today’s ruling, I am so sorry.”

Statement from Elizabeth Fegan, managing partner of FeganScott and attorney who represented several women in the sexual abuse cases brought against Harvey Weinstein:

“I have spent the last half-decade of my legal career reviewing the evidence in the cases brought against Weinstein, and all survivors’ accounts of his sexual abuse reflect that the man deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. The New York appellate court’s decision reflects only that the rules of evidence govern when evidence is admissible. The decision says nothing about the veracity of the fact of his abuse.

I am eternally grateful to the LA District attorney and the women who put themselves through enormous emotional pain reliving the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Weinstein in a second trial. Some thought the LA case to be superfluous in light of the NY verdict, but now we realize how important it was.

The California survivors stepped into the line of fire, putting themselves through enormous emotional pain reliving the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Weinstein. They were adamant that regardless of the New York verdict on appeal the prosecutors in California should pursue charges to ensure Weinstein stayed behind bars. We are pleased the Los Angeles District Attorney agreed. These brave women weren’t seeking justice for themselves but for all of Weinstein’s victims, including those in New York. Their determination ensures that Weinstein has still lost and will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Sean Piccoli contributed to this report.

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