Harvey Weinstein was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, after a jury found him guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He faces up to 29 years in prison on both charges. The criminal sexual act carries a minimum sentence of five years. Weinstein avoided conviction on more serious charges for predatory sexual assault, which could have carried a sentence of 10 to life, as well as an additional rape charge. Due to Weinstein’s age, as well as health issues, he could be facing the rest of his life in prison.
Today, the court remanded him to custody pending sentencing. His attorneys objected, due especially to his health concerns, but the judge decided he would be held pending sentencing (which is not unusual when a sentence of several years is expected.) Sentencing is set for March 11, when Weinstein will learn his fate. His attorneys indicate the appellate process is already underway, and they may move for an appellate bond, which may be difficult to get on a sex offense with many years in prison. He also faces additional charges in California.
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
Samantha Mears, allegedly a 19-year old lunatic in Montana, has been arrested and charged with suprising her ex-boyfriend, holding him hostage with a machete, and forcing him to have sex with her. He says she had broken in, and when he came home she confronted him from behind and held him hostage with the machete. She then made him lie on the bed, take his pants off, and she got on top of him and initiated sexual intercourse against his will. He called police, pretending to call his friend “Doug”, and police came and arrested her. She claims to have been kidnapped, but the man provided a photo of her on the bed with the machete, and a bite mark on his arm.
There’s almost certainly something more going on here, though there is apparently a history of violence from her to him. However, they did not charge her with sexual assault (rape) or burglary, which would seem to be indicated by the allegations. Also, they say the couple had been dating for 7 years, which is a pretty long time for a 19-year old. So, some things sound fishy, to say the least. Regardless, it’s a pretty spectacular allegation.
UPDATE: Mears has been found incompetent to stand trial, and has been admitted to a mental hospital.
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.
I’m a trial nerd… probably moreso than even the average lawyer. I watched the “The People v. O.J. Simpson” like I’d have to write a book report on it. My ultimate wish would be to be able to watch jury deliberations take place, that’s ultimately the room where it happens. But I like other trial experiences, from sitting in on live trials whenever I can, to all kinds of lawyer books and TV shows. That’s why I was pleased to be introduced to this article from the prosecutors of one of the Baylor rape cases (link).
Convicted Rapist Sam Ukwauchu
These prosecutors go into great detail their preparation and handling of the case, from the pre-filing investigation, to how their work paid off when the case went to trial. I recommend it for all criminal trial attorneys, and it should be required reading for those who prosecute SVU cases. I found the story via Deadspin, who has had lots of coverage or the Baylor sex scandal that brought down not only the football coach, but also the AD and the President, Ken Starr (yes, THAT Ken Starr). Congrats to these attorneys on a hard-fought win on a challenging, high-profile case.
TDCAA via Deadspin.