The defense is asking a judge to order grand jury transcripts and exhibits to be sealed in the case of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, contending that their release could prejudice his right to a fair trial on sex-related charges involving five women.
“Few cases in recent history have garnered the amount and intensity of press attention, public scrutiny, and heightened media frenzy as the instant case,” Weinstein’s attorneys wrote in a court filing Thursday.
“From the moment that allegations were first made against Mr. Weinstein, and before charges were ever filed in either New York or California, the media blitz around the case worked to quickly make Mr. Weinstein’s name virtually synonymous with wrongdoing and abuse.”
The defense contends in the court filing that the grand jury transcripts and exhibits “contain highly personal and invasive details about Mr. Weinstein’s medical and psychological history, and even intimate details about his physical body and anatomy” and that a “heightened focus and scrutiny while the community is already inundated and saturated with news about this case will further prejudice Mr. Weinstein by making it that much more difficult to find impartial jurors.”
Weinstein, 69, was extradited July 20 to Los Angeles from New York, where he has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for raping an aspiring actress and a criminal sex act against a former production assistant.
Weinstein was indicted March 15 by a grand jury in Los Angeles on four counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation, two counts of sexual battery by restraint and one count of sexual penetration by use of force.
At a hearing Thursday, Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench rejected a defense bid to dismiss two of the charges against Weinstein based on claims they are precluded by the statute of limitations, but agreed to allow the prosecution the opportunity to amend a third count challenged by the defense.
Within hours of the judge’s ruling, a grand jury handed up an amended indictment against Weinstein involving the challenged charge of sexual battery by restraint — the only count involving one of the five alleged victims in the 11-count indictment.
“… The indictment supersedes and took the place of the prior complaint,” according to the amended indictment, which notes that Weinstein was initially charged in April 2020 and was “continuously charged with the same conduct with the same charge against the same victim until the present.”
Shortly after the judge’s ruling, one of Weinstein’s attorneys, Mark Werksman, told reporters, “You can put a fork in count five. It’s done.”
The defense attorney said “one-fifth of the prosecution’s case has been gutted,” adding that the defense believes there is no factual or legal basis to allow that count involving the alleged May 2010 crime to proceed.
The judge had sustained the defense’s challenge on that charge, but agreed to Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson’s request to amend the indictment.
Weinstein’s attorneys unsuccessfully challenged two other counts — forcible oral copulation and forcible rape involving another alleged victim between September 2004 and September 2005.
Weinstein’s legal team had tried to block his transfer from New York to Los Angeles until he was “medically fit” to be moved. A court document filed in Los Angeles by the defense contended that Weinstein was in “urgent need of medical treatment to save his eyesight, and that this treatment could take anywhere from 24 to 36 months.” The defense had also asked a judge in Los Angeles to delay the transfer until Weinstein’s medical treatment is completed.
In court papers filed earlier this month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office asserted that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is capable of providing medical care to Weinstein.
At Weinstein’s first court appearance in Los Angeles, Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia II granted the defense’s request for a medical evaluation for Weinstein.
Los Angeles County prosecutors initially charged Weinstein in January 2020 with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by use of force involving one woman on Feb. 18, 2013, and sexual battery by restraint involving another woman a day later.
Weinstein was subsequently charged in April 2020 with sexual battery by restraint — one of the counts challenged by the defense — involving a woman in May 2010.
In November 2020, prosecutors added six more counts — three counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation — involving two alleged victims in Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2010.
A grand jury subsequently indicted Weinstein on the same charges, to which he pleaded not guilty last week.
In a statement released after Weinstein’s arraignment, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said the case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.
Weinstein could face a potential maximum of 140 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, the District Attorney’s Office said earlier.
After last week’s court hearing, Werksman said the latest allegations against his client are not corroborated by any scientific or forensic evidence, adding that he believes Weinstein “will be acquitted” if he gets a fair trial.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who said she represents two of the alleged victims, said last week that it was “long overdue” for Weinstein to appear in a courtroom in connection with the Los Angeles case.
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