As you may have seen, trial got underway in New York City for producer Harvey Weinstein, charged with several sexual offenses in one of the landmark cases of the #metoo movement. Today, Mr. Weinstein was excoriated by the judge for using his cell phone in court, in spite of the judge’s strict rule against it, and repeated orders not to do so. His poor attorneys end up apologizing to the judge for their client’s behavior, only for the judge to “snarl” at them as well. Apparently, they had made Weinstein turn over his cellphone earlier, but he had multiple additional cell phones and continued to access them in court. He’s literally pulling tricks to confound his own attorneys as they were trying to keep him out of trouble. The judge threatened to revoke his bond for disobeying the order, which he would have been in his power to do.
Weinstein picked a particularly bad day to disobey the judge, because new charges had been filed against him in California, and the prosecution on this case was already arguing to the court for his bond to be revoked. I think the State shot itself in the foot suggesting that they had not been in contact with the Los Angeles prosecution when the indictment was conveniently unveiled to coincide with the start of his New York trial… and that the L.A. prosecutor indicated that they certainly had been in contact with the New York D.A. The defense asked for a continuance and the judge smartly resolved everything to avoid conflict: denying the request for continuance, denying the request to revoke bail on the New York case, and ultimately setting identical bail on the California case so the court can get down to the business of conducting the trial at hand, which is expected to last around two months.
Harvey Weinstein being assisted to court
The challenge for Weinstein’s lawyers, beyond the legal challenge of defending him from the charges, will be to rein in his behavior so he doesn’t end up shooting himself in the foot. He started showing up to court with a walker, and when commentators suggested he was trying to garner sympathy, he had an extensive interview with Page Six without consulting his attorney. He’s trying to win in the court of public opinion while his attorneys are trying to win in actual court, where the potential penalty is life in prison. He has already gone through multiple prior attorneys, before settling on this team.
The predatory rape charges included in the New York case create a huge challenge for Weinstein’s defense team as they allow the state to introduce evidence of other offenses. This includes offenses that were not charged and that may not have been brought up until after the statute of limitations, and none for which Mr. Weinstein has admitted or been convicted of. He categorically denies all charges, and says that any sexual contact was consensual. However, the State being able to bring in a string of additional accusers presents a damning fact pattern and suggestion of guilt that will be difficult for the defense to overcome, particularly coupled with some potentially humiliating evidence. Compare the case against Bill Cosby, who’s first trial ended in a hung jury. During the second trial, the court permitted evidence from additional accusers and the jury in that case convicted Cosby. On the other hand, the charges only came about after a very public campaign creating political pressure for the prosecutors to bring charges, and one of the lead NYPD investigators was prevented from testifying due to suggestions of witness coaching and withholding evidence. The case will be a hard-fought battle for the next eight weeks. The attorneys have their work cut out for them, but at least they are being well paid.
Posted in California, Criminal Law, New York
Tagged bill cosby, california, harvey weinstein, los angeles, new york city, rape, sexcrime, similar fact evidence, trial
Cosby sentencing hearing
Bill Cosby, who was convicted of three counts of indecent sexual assault during a second trial earlier this year, has been sentenced to up to 10 years in a Pennsylvania prison. The three counts were merged for sentencing under Pennsylvania law, and the judge sentenced him in accordance with the guidelines, which called for at least 22-36 months. The judge denied the defense request for house arrest, and denied Cosby a bond. Cosby was led from the courtroom in handcuffs and processed into custody.
Cosby, known as America’s dad for his reign as the patriarch of the fictional Cosby he portrayed on a top-rated sitcom in the 1980’s, will surely appeal. There are a couple of substantial issues to be hashed out on appeal. First is the trial judge’s decision to allow the statements Cosby made in the civil case to be presented in the criminal trial. Cosby claimed he had only agreed to testify in the civil case pursuant to an agreement that the state would not prosecute, essentially that he was immune from prosecution. Cosby’s wife has recently indicated she wants to address a possible dispute the judge had with the former prosecutor that allegedly made the immunity agreement with Cosby. Also, among other things, Cosby will challenge the court’s decision to allow five other alleged victims to testify in this case. During his first trial, only one other accuser testified, and the trial ended with a mistrial due to a hung jury. While the decision to allow similar fact evidence before the jury is generally left to the discretion of the trial judge, his change of heart to allow four more accusers will certainly be scrutinized. It appears Cosby will have to remain behind bars unless he scores on his appeal.
Bill Cosby was found guilty of all three counts of aggravated indecent assault in a Pennsylvania courtroom this afternoon. The charges stem from accusations that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman at his home. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count. After the verdict, the prosecutor asked that his bond be revoked pending sentencing, and Cosby audibly called him an “Asshole” in court. The judge declined, leaving the same bond in place. Sentencing will probably not be for a few weeks, and Cosby will need to undergo an assessment to see if he must register as a violent sexual predator. He will certainly appeal, and will probably try to secure a bond while the appeal is ongoing, as well.
This brings to close a saga that began with the accusation 13 years ago. The prosecutor at the time initially did not prosecute, and Cosby claimed that he had an immunity agreement in place before he testified at the deposition in the related civil suit: which he ended up settling for $3.4 million dollars. Later, after publicity, a new prosecutor was elected who then filed on criminal charges, and no immunity agreement was ever produced, so the court allowed him to proceed and to introduce the deposition testimony by Cosby. The first trial ended in a mistrial. This trial included additional evidence, included testimony from five other women that claim Cosby drugged them and took advantage of them, and also from a woman who claimed that the accuser told her that she was going to make up an accusation to try to cash in. His new attorney, Tom Meserau, tried a different, more aggressive approach with the accuser. The jurors must not have been persuaded as they found him guilty as charged.
Not only does it firmly bring down the comedian formerly referred to as America’s Dad, it makes the ‘special sauce’ episode of the Cosby Show really creepy in hindsight… Also, when you get found guilty of sexual assault, it’s not the prosecutor who is an ‘asshole’.
Closing arguments are scheduled today in Bill Cosby’s second trial on charges of drugging and sexually abusing a woman, Andrew Costand. The case previously went to trial last year, and ended in a hung jury. This time around, there was some additional evidence that went in front of the jury. The prosecutors were permitted to introduce the testimony of several other women, including supermodel Janice Dickinson, who allege that Cosby also drugged and assaulted them in a similar manner: in the first trial, they were only permitted to introduce the testimony of one women, who did not testify in this case. That’s huge for the effect on the impression of Cosby’s character. However, the Defense was permitted to introduce the testimony of a co-worker of the accuser, who claims that Constand had confided that she had a plan to accuse Cosby in order to cash in, and that she ultimately received a settlement of $3.4 million. That evidence was not heard at the first trial, either.
Closing arguments should conclude today, though jury deliberations may continue beyond this evening. The tenor of this trial was very different, as Cosby’s new attorney Tom Mesereau pointedly attacked the accuser and her financial interest in the claims. They also introduced evidence from Cosby’s private plane suggesting he was not even in Philadelphia at the time she alleges the attack to have occurred. The case will soon be in the hands of the jury- Cosby faces several years in prison for the three counts, of he could walk free. This is the only case of the multiple accusations against him for which the statute of limitations has not expired. The last jury deliberated over the course of six days, so it may be a while before there is a verdict.
Famed comedian Bill Cosby goes back on trial this week for charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman several years ago. Since the charges were filed, dozens of other woman have come forward to allege that Cosby had similar conduct with them. The case went to trial 10 months ago, and ended with a hung jury. Even though Cosby’s attorneys managed to avoid a conviction at that trial, Cosby now has a new legal team lead by Tom Mesereau, who has handled such high-profile clients as Michael Jackson.
The trial will be quite different this time, as the new attorneys seem more aggressive, and the evidence has substantially changed. For the first trial, the court allowed one other accuser to testify about her experience with Cosby. This time around, the court has permitted up to five other accusers to testify. Last time around, the attorneys were able to cast enough doubt on the “similar fact evidence” witness that the jurors later said they completely disregarded her. It will be very difficult for them to disregard five, or to demonstrate that they are financially motivated. One of the possible witnesses is model Janice Dickinson, who has sued Cosby for defamation for attacking her claims. It’s unclear why the judge decided that five other people can testify in this trial when they couldn’t in the last one, but it appears to make the situation far more grave for Cosby.
Generally, a retrial favors the prosecution… and probably more so when the judge permits a substantial amount of evidence that was previously excluded. We will find out the final outcome when the trial concludes, probably not for about a month.