Harvey Weinstein to be extradited to California to stand trial on sexual assault charges

Harvey Weinstein-1623822433896
In this file photo taken on February 24, 2020 Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City. Image Credit: AFP

Harvey Weinstein will soon be extradited to California to stand trial on charges that he sexually assaulted five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, a New York judge ruled Tuesday.

Weinstein, 69, and his legal team have spent months fighting Los Angeles County prosecutors’ attempts to bring the disgraced Hollywood titan to Southern California. But on Tuesday, Erie County Court Judge Kenneth Case ruled LA County authorities could claim custody of Weinstein, setting the stage for a second trial focused on the mogul’s alleged pattern of sexually abusing actresses and models he held sway over in Hollywood.

Case knocked down a motion to block the mogul’s extradition that was based largely around claims that Weinstein needed to stay in New York to receive proper treatment for failing eyesight and an argument that LA prosecutors had filed erroneous paperwork seeking to claim custody of him. Although the paperwork issue led to a delay in the proceedings during a previous extradition hearing, it ultimately fell flat Tuesday.

Weinstein 19788-1623822431669

In this image taken from court video, Harvey Weinstein attends a hearing from Wende Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison, near Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Weinstein 78893-1623822429960

Weinstein’s defence team has repeatedly cited the mogul’s poor health as a reason to delay his extradition. Image Credit: AP

Weinstein dropped his head into his hands as the judge issued his ruling.

Erie County prosecutors said they had been in contact with LA County authorities, and it is unlikely they will seek to transport Weinstein to California until mid-July.

In March 2020, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in New York state prison after a Manhattan jury found him guilty of rape and committing a criminal sexual act. But the day before jury selection began in Weinstein’s New York trial, former LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed multiple counts of sexual assault against the Miramax movie studio co-founder, accusing him of assaulting three women in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles between 2004 and 2013. Last October, prosecutors added six more charges involving two additional alleged victims.

Weinstein’s defence team has repeatedly cited the mogul’s poor health as a reason to delay his extradition. Attorney Norman Effman has said Weinstein is being held in a medical wing at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, and has repeatedly asked for prosecutors to allow Weinstein to appear remotely for court proceedings in Los Angeles, citing two surgeries scheduled in New York and a number of serious medical issues. Previously, Weinstein’s defence attorneys have said he is nearly blind.

“We are disappointed by the judge’s ruling, but we are appealing his decision and have filed a habeas corpus petition in the Los Angeles Superior Court to prevent the Los Angeles County district attorney from transporting Harvey to Los Angeles until he can receive the medical care he desperately needs in New York,” said Mark Werksman, who is serving as Weinstein’s criminal defence attorney in Los Angeles.

TAB 200105  Harvey Weinstein-1578207793267
Harvey Weinstein arrives at criminal court on December 11, 2019 in New York City. Image Credit: AFP

Werksman said Weinstein needed injections and cataract surgery to prevent the permanent loss of his eyesight. Weinstein’s legal team in New York first disclosed the mogul might be going blind during his 2020 sentencing. In the habeas motion, Werksman said Weinstein’s surgeries could take up to nine months to complete.

It is not clear when a trial would take place in Los Angeles. The county’s courts effectively stopped all criminal trials during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have only recently begun to hold trials again, including the high-profile murder prosecution of real estate scion Robert Durst.

Werksman has argued that, under California laws governing extraditions, Weinstein must be brought to trial within 120 days of being brought to California. In the habeas motion, Werksman alleged prosecutors were forcing Weinstein to choose between his health and his constitutional right to a speedy trial by forcing his extradition now.

The LA County district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to questions about the extradition or a possible trial timeline.

In April, it was revealed that an LA County grand jury indicted Weinstein on four counts of forcible rape, four counts of forcible oral copulation, two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual penetration by force. The indictment allows prosecutors to avoid the need to hold a preliminary hearing in LA, and was meant to pre-empt potential speedy-trial issues in Weinstein’s case, law enforcement officials previously told the Los Angeles Times.

All five women accusing Weinstein of assault testified at the hearings, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss secret grand jury proceedings. Transcripts of the hearings remain under seal.

Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing and is appealing his conviction in New York. The allegations against Weinstein in Los Angeles echo those he was convicted of in Manhattan.

Lauren Young, the only accuser whose identity has been made public in the Los Angeles case, has alleged Weinstein lured her into his room after a meeting at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2013, where the mogul allegedly grabbed her breast and masturbated before she fled. Young testified against Weinstein as a “prior bad acts” witness in Manhattan. In the New York trial, prosecutors called such witnesses to testify about uncharged alleged acts to show a pattern of behaviour.

A second accuser in the Los Angeles case is an Italian model who previously told the Times that Weinstein attacked her inside Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2013. The woman, whose identity has not been made public, reported the assault to the Los Angeles Police Department in 2017, sparking an investigation that led to the filing of charges early last year.

The Times normally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have chosen to come forward publicly or been identified in court. The names of the three other accusers have yet to be made public. In total, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse in the US and Europe.