What to Know
- The jury selection began on Tuesday in a case involving allegations that Weinstein raped a woman at a Manhattan hotel
- Weinstein is also accused of performing a forced sexual act on a different woman in 2006
- It is the only criminal case to arise from dozens of allegations against the Oscar-winning film producer
The trial judge by Harvey Weinstein moved forward with the start of the jury selection on Tuesday, rejecting a defense request for a "cooling-off period" after the explosion of publicity about filing new charges against the Hollywood tycoon in Los Angeles.
Weinstein's lawyers suggested that the timing of the new sex offenses charges, announced on Monday, was deliberate on the part of prosecutors, and called for a delay in reducing advertising.
"For a prosecutor, this is Christmas morning – the morning of the jury selection so that it is spread everywhere," said defense lawyer Arthur Aidala.
Judge James Burke declined a postponement, saying he is confident that the jury will understand that Weinstein is found innocent, and that the first 120 potential jurors have been brought in, step one in a process that should take weeks, given the strong news coverage of the case. and the way the once powerful studio head was cast as the arch-villain of the #MeToo movement.
The judge said it would be a high-profile case and asked if there was anyone who could not be impartial. About 40 hands went up. These people were fired. By the time the court ended the day, dozens more were rejected and the number dropped to 36. Another large group of prospective jurors is due to report on Wednesday.
The day started with Weinstein, 67, walking into court with a walker after a recent back surgery, and the session soon exploded into legal fireworks, with the judge denying prosecutors' request to revoke the defendant's bail and arrest it until the trial is over. Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi argued that the new case in Los Angeles increased Weinstein's incentive to flee.
"There is a serious risk that this defendant will at some point realize that the evidence is overwhelming," she said.
While refusing prosecutors, Burke invaded Weinstein and threatened to arrest him for sending text messages on his cell phone in the courtroom.
"Mr. Weinstein, is this really how you want to end up in jail … texting and violating a court order?" he said, cutting off the defendant before he could answer.
Prospective jurors received a detailed questionnaire that asked things like, "If you saw, read or heard anything about the case, does this information affect your ability to be a fair and impartial judge?" They also read a list of names that could come up. during the trial, including actresses Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron and Rosie Perez.
Weinstein was introduced to the group and stood up using his walker.
Weinstein is accused in New York of raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and of having sex with another woman in the city in 2006. He said any sexual activity was consensual. The most serious charges against him have a mandatory life sentence.
On Monday, Los Angeles prosecutors accused him of sexually assaulting two women on successive nights at hotels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills during Oscar week in 2013. These charges could take up to 28 years behind bars.
When the jury selection was about to begin, Weinstein's lawyer, Donna Rotunno, questioned the timing of the new charges, saying that if anyone believes it was a coincidence, as the LA prosecutor insisted, "I would like to sell the Brooklyn Bridge for them".
The judge estimates that the selection of the jury will take at least two weeks, with the opening statements just after Martin Luther King Day on January 20.
Once one of Hollywood's most powerful and feared producers, Weinstein was accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment or other misconduct by dozens of women, from famous actresses to his company's assistants.
The allegations, first exposed by the New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017, brought their downfall and helped trigger the #MeToo movement against powerful men who attack women.