Harvey Weinstein appeals against conviction for sex crimes

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image copyrightReuters

Lawyers for disgraced US film producer Harvey Weinstein have launched an appeal against his conviction for rape and sexual assault.

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in New York City in February 2020 and later sentenced to 23 years in prison.

It was seen as a landmark moment in the #MeToo movement against the sexual abuse and harassment of women.

Weinstein, formerly one of Hollywood's most powerful figures, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

He has vowed to clear his name. Filed in New York State Supreme Court, the long-anticipated appeal signals the start of what is expected to be a lengthy attempt to have his conviction quashed.

His lawyers argue that the judge made several errors that denied Weinstein's right to a fair trial.

"With a year behind us and emotions subsided, the transcript of the case confirms what we always believed: that Mr Weinstein did not receive a fair trial," one of Weinstein's lawyers, Arthur Aidala, said in a statement sent to the BBC on Monday.

Dozens of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, including rape, against Weinstein, an Oscar-winning producer.

The allegations began to emerge in October 2017, when the New York Times newspaper first reported incidents dating back decades.

Weinstein faces further criminal charges, for rape and sexual assault, in Los Angeles, California, where he is due to stand trial.

He is currently being held in a maximum-security prison in New York state. He had heart surgery after his February 2020 conviction and tested positive for coronavirus a month later while in jail.

What was Weinstein convicted of?

Weinstein faced five charges in the New York City trial but was only found guilty of two.

The first was a first-degree criminal sexual act against production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006. The second was a third-degree rape of aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013.

New York jurors acquitted him of the most serious charges, of predatory sexual assault, which could have seen him given an even longer jail term.

media captionReaction to the court's decision to sentence Harvey Weinstein to 23 years in jail (file image from 24 February 2020)

Weinstein he did not testify to defend himself in court. But moments before he was sentenced, he read out a statement in which he expressed "deep remorse" but described himself as "totally confused" by the #MeToo movement.

Outside court, Ms Haley said the assault had "scarred me deeply, mentally and emotionally".

"What he did not only stripped me of my dignity as a human being and a woman, but it crushed my confidence," she said.

What does the appeal say?

In a 166-page brief, Weinstein's lawyers raise seven examples of "errors" that, in their view, compromised the fairness of the trial.

In one argument, the lawyers say the trial was "tainted by a single juror who demonstrated a strong and disqualifying bias in favour of the prosecution". That juror, they say, was writing an autobiographical book about the sexual harassment of younger women by older men.

Another argument says the testimony of women whose sexual allegations were not the subject of the criminal charges unfairly influenced the jury. Jurors heard testimony from the actress Annabella Sciorra, who accused Weinstein of raping her in 1993.

Weinstein was not charged with raping Sciorra, but prosecutors used her testimony to support their argument that he was a sexual predator.

image copyrightReuters
image captionA sketch of Weinstein during his sentencing

A third argument says defence experts were improperly barred from rebutting the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses.

"We will argue that the trial judge disregarded well accepted and fundamental principles of New York law and violated Mr Weinstein's constitutional rights," Weinstein's lawyer, Mr Aidala, said. "We have the utmost confidence that the Appellate Division will correct these mistakes and send this case back before a different judge."

Now the appeal has been submitted, prosecutors will have a chance to respond before a judge assesses the arguments and makes a decision.

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