Judge dismisses sexual battery charge against Harvey Weinstein in L.A.

Harvey Weinstein departs a Manhattan courthouse for his rape trial, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed a count of sexual battery against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday morning, agreeing with a defense motion that the statute of limitations had expired.

Defense attorneys for Weinstein, who was indicted on 11 counts of rape and forcible oral copulation in April, filed court papers last month claiming that three of the charges alleging sexual battery and rape were beyond the statute of limitations. Judge Lisa Lench disregarded their arguments relating to two assaults that allegedly took place between 2004 and 2005 but granted their motion to dismiss a 2010 allegation of sexual battery.

Although prosecutors initially filed the charge within the statute of limitations, which is 10 years, Weinstein's defense team argued the April 2021 indictment was beyond that deadline. Lench had initially given prosecutors permission to amend their complaint, before spiking the sexual battery charge Thursday morning.

"We are pleased that the judge agreed that one of the charges alleged was barred by the [statute] of limitations. It remains dismissed and it never should have been brought in the first place," Weinstein's spokesman, Juda Engelmayer, said in an email. "We consider this a partial victory, but know there is quite the road ahead."

The count dismissed Thursday was initially brought in October 2020, part of an amended criminal complaint after former Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey filed four counts of rape, forcible oral copulation and other assault charges against the mogul in January 2020. Earlier this year, several law enforcement sources told The Times that prosecutors sought a grand jury indictment of Weinstein in order to bypass the need for a preliminary hearing and pre-empt potential speedy trial issues in the Los Angeles case.

Weinstein still faces 10 other counts of rape and sexual assault involving attacks on five women in L.A. and Beverly Hills.

"Mr. Weinstein faces very serious charges. Ten of the 11 counts stand. We are taking appropriate steps so that justice prevails in this case," said Alex Bastian, a special advisor to Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

Mark Werksman, Weinstein's lead defense counsel in Los Angeles, said prosecutors could try to revive the count by initiating another grand jury proceeding, but he believes that attempt would fail.

"It's effectively dead," Werksman said.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges in Los Angeles and is expected to stand trial by November.

A similar situation played out before Weinstein's New York trial. In 2018, Manhattan prosecutors dropped one of the six charges filed against the disgraced Hollywood mogul after evidence surfaced suggesting inconsistencies in an accuser's description of a 2004 assault.

Ultimately, Weinstein was convicted of rape and committing a criminal sexual act and sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York. He has appealed his conviction.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.