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Harvey Weinstein appeals rape conviction in MeToo case

Harvey Weinstein enters the courthouse on July 11, 2019 in New York City.

Stephanie Keith | Getty Images

Lawyers for film producer Harvey Weinstein on Monday filed an appeal of his conviction for rape and another sex crime.

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 after a trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.

He is serving a 23-year prison sentence in the case, which was tried two years after explosive allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein ignited the #MeToo movement that has continued to derail the careers of other high-profile men to this day.

His lawyers in a court filing laid out seven grounds for overturning the conviction of the producer of films such as “Pulp Fiction,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and “Gangs of New York.”

They include the claim that Weinstein was denied his right to be tried by an impartial jury when the trial judge, James Burke, denied his challenge to bar a prospective juror who had written an autobiographical book about “the predations of older men against younger women, and who lied about the substance of the book during” jury selection.

Defense lawyers also argued that Weinstein was denied his right to a fair trial because jurors were allowed to hear claims of serious sexual misconduct by him that were not the subject of the specific charges he faces, and that defense experts were improperly barred from testifying on the subject of memory of sexual events.

And, the lawyers argued, Weinstein received “a sentence that was harsh and excessive.”

The appeal is filed in the Appellate Division in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“We have filed a 166-page brief, outlining several serious mistakes made during the course of the trial,” Weinstein’s appellate lawyer Barry Kamins said in a statement to CNBC.

“We are confident that the Appellate Division will find these issues serious enough to require a reversal of the conviction,” Kamins said.

Jurors convicted Weinstein committing a first-degree criminal sexual act by forcibly performing oral sex on production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006. He also was found guilty of third-degree rape for attacking aspiring actress Jessica Mann in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from the actress Annabella Sciorra, who said that Weinstein had raped her in her Manhattan apartment in 1993.

Weinstein was not charged with raping Sciorra, but her testimony, along with that of five other women, was allowed by Burke, the judge, in order to let prosecutors to show a pattern of predatory conduct by the movie mogul. Scores of other women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Another lawyer for Weinstein, Arthur Aidala, said, “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.”

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

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer who represents seven women who have made allegations against Weinstein, including one who testified at the trial, said in a statement, “Harvey Weinstein’s criminal appeal is a desperate attempt to undo a fair trial overseen by Judge Burke and the findings of a well-reasoned and thoughtful jury.”

“We are confident the appeal will not alter his conviction and sentence,” Wigdor said.

 In addition to the New York case, Weinstein also faces pending charges filed in January 2020 by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, which accuses him of raping one woman and sexually assaulting a second woman over a two-day period in 2013.

The Los Angeles DA has a pending extradition request for Weinstein, who is being held in a New York state prison. Weinstein, who has multiple health problems, tested positive for the coronavirus in March 2020 while in prison.

Weinstein founded the entertainment company Miramax with his brother, Bob Weinstein.

They later founded The Weinstein Company, another movie production firm, which filed for bankruptcy in early 2018 on the heels of the damning allegations against Harvey Weinstein, first published in The New Yorker and The New York Times. The Weinstein Company shuttered later that same year.

– CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.

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