Hollywood, accusers condemn reversal of Weinstein conviction: 'We know what happened'

A close-up of an aging man with a police officer behind him
Harvey Weinstein's rape conviction in New York has been overturned. (John Minchillo / AP)

Harvey Weinstein's accusers and opponents of sexual violence in Hollywood and beyond are speaking out against the reversal of the disgraced movie mogul's rape conviction in New York.

Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino and others who have accused the former Hollywood producer of sexual misconduct condemned a New York court of appeals' decision on Thursday to overturn the verdict.

Weinstein has been serving a 23-year sentence since he was convicted in 2020 of rape and a felony sex crime after allegedly assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haley and once-aspiring actor Jessica Mann.

"This today is an act of institutional betrayal. And our institutions betray survivors of male sexual violence," Judd said during a news conference at the Millennium Hilton hotel in New York . "I stand shoulder to shoulder with women who have bloody knees because male sexual violence may knock us down, but we get right back up. And together we are in the struggle for freedom from male entitlement to our bodies."

"This is unfair to survivors," Judd added on her Instagram story. "We live in our truth. We know what happened."

Read more: Harvey Weinstein rape conviction overturned by N.Y. court; California conviction stays

Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, remarked during the news conference that "moments like this underscore why movements are necessary and ... why we keep going."

"We are devastated for the survivors who are connected to this case and the survivors who have found some solace and catharsis in the original verdict," Burke said. "We will always stand with resolve and resilience. ... This is not a blow to the movement. It is a clarion call, and we are prepared to answer that call."

The New York appeals court found, in a 4-3 decision, that the judge who presided over Weinstein’s trial prejudiced the case by allowing four women who said Weinstein had assaulted them to serve as witnesses, even though their allegations were not part of the case.

The trial judge also made a mistake, the court determined, in permitting prosecutors to question Weinstein about uncharged and decades-old allegations if he decided to testify.

Weinstein was also convicted of rape in California, and the New York ruling will have no practical effect on his imprisonment.

Weinstein's legal team lauded the court's ruling at a news conference in Manhattan.

"From the bottom of our hearts, from our collective hundreds of years of experience, we knew that Harvey Weinstein did not get a fair trial,” said Arthur Aidala, lead attorney for Weinstein. “There are some people who are unpopular in society, but we still have to apply the law fairly.”

Sorvino wrote on X that she was "horrified" by the news, which surfaced during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

"Since when don’t courts allow evidence of pattern of prior bad acts to be admitted?" Sorvino said. "He’s a prolific serial predator who raped/harmed 200+women! Disgusted w/justice system [skew toward] predators not victims."

Weinstein has denied all allegations of sexual assault.

Read more: 'Where he belongs': With life in prison likely for Weinstein, accusers react

The Silence Breakers — a coalition of 23 women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct that includes actors Judd, Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette — issued a statement calling the reversal "disheartening" and "profoundly unjust."

"This ruling does not diminish the validity of our experiences or our truth; it's merely a setback," the Silence Breakers said.

"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.”

Documentary filmmaker, Weinstein accuser and California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom regarded Thursday as "a very sad day for countless women who suffered at the hands of a serial predator."

"Two juries have said unequivocally: Harvey Weinstein must never be able to rape another woman, and he deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars," Siebel Newsom said in a statement.

"The criminal trial in Los Angeles was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. ... I am so proud of all who risked so much to speak their truth."

Anita Hill, chair and president of the Hollywood Commission, said in a statement that Thursday's reversal evinces "a lack of progress in addressing the power imbalances that allow abuse to occur" and proves that "sexual assault continues to be a pervasive problem."

"Many survivors do not pursue justice because they believe nothing will be done," Hill added.

"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."

Attorney Douglas Wigdor — who has represented eight Weinstein accusers, including two of the witnesses at the New York criminal trial — denounced Thursday's decision as "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," Wigdor said in a statement.

"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.”

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented Haley and two other witnesses in the New York case, confirmed Thursday in a statement that her client "would consider testifying again if District Attorney Alvin Bragg decided to proceed with a new trial."

"I commend Mimi on her courage and willingness to keep standing up for the truth," Allred said. "The decision means that it will be more difficult to convict those who victimize women and prey on them. As a result, fewer prosecutions will be brought against sexual predators and many will escape the justice that they deserve. Although victims have lost this battle they have not lost the war."

Attorney David Ring — who represents actor Evgeniya Chernyshova, a Jane Doe in the criminal proceedings brought against Harvey Weinstein in Los Angeles — said his client "is obviously disappointed" in Thursday's outcome.

"She feels badly for those victims who endured that trial and the subsequent appeals, only to see the convictions reversed," Ring said in a statement. "However, both she and I are confident that Weinstein’s Los Angeles conviction for rape will be upheld.”

In a statement provided to The Times, a spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney's office said, "We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault.”

Times staff writers Jenny Jarvie, Richard Winton and James Queally contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.