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New York rape conviction against Harvey Weinstein overturned by appellate court

U.S. Court of Appeals decision orders a new trial for Weinstein in court ruling that questions the fairness of the process

Anulan sentenia a Weinstein
Weinstein | Shutterstock

April 25, 2024 4:15pm

Updated: April 29, 2024 8:16am

In a ruling that further weakens the #MeToo movement, a New York appellate court overturned the conviction against Harvey Weinstein, a once-powerful Hollywood producer, who was prosecuted in 2020 for alleged sexual crimes.

The decision orders a new trial for Weinstein over a court ruling that questions the fairness of the process.

Weinstein, 72, had been sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York on charges of criminal sexual act and third-degree rape against two women. His conviction, heralded as a historic triumph by activists and victims' rights advocates, has now been overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals, which found that Judge James Burke made serious procedural errors that tainted the trial.

Weinstein's lawyers argued that Burke's rulings in favor of the prosecution turned the process into a “circus show” and a “hotline to convicting Harvey.”

At the center of the controversy is the judge's decision to allow testimony from three women about allegations that were not part of the case, as well as the possibility of prosecutors confronting Weinstein about his long history of abusive behavior if he decided to testify.

“We had a defendant who was begging to tell his side of the story. It's a case of he said, she said, and he says, 'that's not how it happened'. Let me tell you how I did it,’” defense attorney Arthur Aidala argued before the appeals court. "Instead, jurors heard evidence of Weinstein's prior bad behavior that 'had nothing to do with truth and truthfulness. It was all 'he's a bad guy.'"

The overturning of Weinstein's conviction represents the second major setback for the #MeToo movement in the past two years, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal over the overturning of Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction in Pennsylvania.

While prosecutors argued that additional testimony was essential to provide context about Weinstein's behavior and modus operandi, appeals judges determined that it exceeded allowable limits and seriously biased the jury against the defendant.

Now, the same women who denounced one of the most powerful men in Hollywood could be forced to return to the witness stand.

Meanwhile, Harvey Weinstein, who maintains his innocence and maintains that any sexual activity was consensual, will remain incarcerated serving time for another case in Los Angeles.