The criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein has been pushed from a September start to January 6.
Weinstein entered a not guilty plea Monday morning to a new indictment containing charges of sexual assault from 2006 and 2013. Weinstein had already been facing five sexual assault charges from multiple women, and had pleaded not guilty to all charges, maintaining that all sexual acts were consensual.
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Prosecutors had argued the additional indictment was necessary in order to allow actress Annabella Sciorra to testify in the trial.
Sciorra, who has starred in The Sopranos and films like Jungle Fever, provided an account of the alleged assault to Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker in 2017 that proved to be one of the most wrenching of the #MeToo movement. She claims Weinstein assaulted her in 1993. While the statute of limitations has lapsed in the state of New York, her testimony may still be allowed, the D.A. contended. The legal premise for allowing it is to establish “prior bad acts,” a tactic employed by prosecutors in the Bill Cosby case.
Sciorra did not testify during the grand jury proceedings earlier this year. Her account of the 1993 assault had been barred by New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke from being introduced during the trial.
Gloria Allred, an attorney for Sciorra, delivered a statement outside the courtroom. “I commend Annabella for her willingness to take the stand and answer questions under oath,” she said. “She has been willing to do that and share her truth even though she could anticipate a vigorous cross-examination by the defense.”
Echoing the defense argument in an earlier brief that the additional indictment was an “11th-hour” maneuver, Weinstein attorney derided it Monday as “desperate.” But lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said there were “absolutely no surprises” in the charges.
Burke presided over Monday’s 10-minute hearing, most of which was dedicated to setting a new trial date. Originally set to kick off September 9, the trial will now get started January 6. Burke told the defense team — whose members have changed multiple times during the pre-trial phase — that several planned trial dates have been already been set and then delayed.
The judge then addressed the defendant directly, asking him almost casually, “Mr. Weinstein, do you want to go to trial?” Weinstein replied, “Not really. Not with this weak case.” The response, perhaps the most pointed comments in open court by the accused, offered a muted flash of his thundering show business style and drew some murmurs in the courtroom.
Several other key procedural dates were agreed to Monday. The defense team will have until September 6 to respond to prosecutors’ motion to consolidate two of the charges against Weinstein, and until October 10 to weigh in on the new indictment. Prosecutors will get two more weeks to respond to the defense before Burke renders his decision on motions on November 7.
The outcome of all of the paper-shuffling will determine the final charges Weinstein will face at trial. Meanwhile, his defense team has been pushing for the trial to be held outside of the “circus-like” atmosphere of New York City. They argue the venue would make a fair trial impossible.
After Burke left the bench and the legal teams began to disperse, Burke then re-took the bench to formally admonish Weinstein for using a cell phone in the courtroom. When he started to explain himself, the judge cut him off. “Please refrain from doing that,” he said. “It’s a court order.”