Harvey Weinstein Appeals Sex Crimes Conviction Over Accusers’ Testimony
The filing marks the beginning of what is likely to be a lengthy effort by Mr. Weinstein, who was accused of sexual assault or misconduct by dozens of women, to overturn his conviction.,
Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer found guilty of two felony sex crimes last year, appealed his conviction on Monday, saying several women who had accused him of sexual assault should never have been allowed to testify.
Mr. Weinstein, 69, was sentenced to 23 years in prison in a case that relied heavily on testimony from three women who spoke about Mr. Weinstein’s assaults against them at trial, though he was not charged for the behavior they described.
In the appeal, Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers said the women’s testimony led the jury to focus on the long history of allegations against their client rather than on the specific charges that had brought him into the courtroom.
“Simply put, the prosecution tried Weinstein’s character not his conduct,” Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers write in the appeal.
The long-expected appeal, filed in New York State Supreme Court, marks the beginning of what is likely to be a lengthy effort by Mr. Weinstein’s legal team to change his fate.
The allegations against Mr. Weinstein ignited the Me Too movement in 2017 after several women accused him of assault and harassment in an article in The New York Times. That article and one in The New Yorker led to many others about Mr. Weinstein, and about sexual misconduct by powerful men across multiple industries, bringing new scrutiny to behavior that had long been ignored.
Mr. Weinstein’s trial showed something further: A court system that seemed at times to be ill-equipped to bring justice to the victims of sex crimes could convict a man who had been credibly accused by so many.
“This is no ordinary legal case — it was the break in the dam of decades of discrimination and unfairness,” said Karen Dunn, a partner at Paul Weiss and an experienced trial lawyer. “It is hard to imagine, particularly on the facts of this case, a court wanting to be seen as unwinding the hard-fought progress of the Me Too movement.”
Mr. Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 90 women. He faces additional criminal charges in Los Angeles stemming from two attacks that prosecutors there say took place in 2013.
At his sentencing, after he was convicted of a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape, Mr. Weinstein compared the movement to the Red Scare of the 1950s and himself to a screenwriter who had been blacklisted and jailed.
One key to his prosecutors’ strategy was establishing that he had engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior, echoing an approach that was successful in the trial of the actor and comedian Bill Cosby, who in 2018 was found guilty of sexual assault.
In addition to arguing that the three women’s testimony had unfairly influenced the jury, Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers said in the nearly 170-page appeal that there were other reasons to overturn the conviction.
They took issue with the admission of testimony from a fourth woman, the actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Mr. Weinstein had raped her in the early 1990s, evidence that jurors used to determine whether he had committed acts of predatory sexual assault. Jurors found him not guilty of two counts of that crime.
Among their other arguments is that an autobiographical book by one of the jurors in his trial indicates that she was biased against him and that expert testimony from a social psychologist that the defense had hoped to call was inappropriately barred.
Prosecutors will answer the arguments Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers have produced in their appeal, and a judge will ultimately determine whether they have merit.
“We will respond in our brief to the court,” said Danny Frost, a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney.
Even if the appeal is successful, Mr. Weinstein is unlikely to be released from prison anytime soon.
Much of Mr. Weinstein’s legal maneuvering since he went on trial has failed. In the midst of the case, his lawyers argued that the judge was biased and tried to have him removed, only to be rejected. After the jury found Mr. Weinstein guilty, one of his lawyers asked that he be kept free on bail, partly because of his ill health. The request was not granted.