Harvey Weinstein faces new legal battle over ‘Sopranos’ actress’ assault allegations
Embattled Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Manhattan on an indictment containing a new allegation just three weeks before he is slated to face a sex crimes trial.
While the content of the grand jury indictment remains secret until Monday’s hearing, the Manhattan district attorney’s office recently launched an effort to add to a formal criminal allegation from “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra that she was raped by the mogul in 1993, according to court papers.
Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance’s office has charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women in 2006 and 2013.
The prosecutors returned to the grand jury after Justice James Burke ruled Aug. 8 that Sciorra could not testify because her allegation was not presented to a prior grand jury.
Prosecutors have been seeking to add Sciorra to a charge of predatory sexual assault that alleges Weinstein committed his alleged crimes as part of a series of predatory acts. The rape is the strongest of the five felony charges he faces and could carry a life sentence if he was convicted of it.
The onetime Oscars favorite faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of a criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of rape in the first degree and one count of rape in the third degree. Whether the indictment will include a new charge or additional language to include Sciorra’s allegations remains to be seen.
Weinstein, 67, has repeatedly insisted he is innocent of the charges and pleaded not guilty to the existing charges.
His attorneys Donna Rotunno and Arthur Aidala on Thursday denounced the move to bring yet another indictment as the trial neared.
“This Monday, Harvey Weinstein will appear in court for what is an unprecedented fourth arraignment in his criminal matter,” they said. “There has been no case in recent memory where a district attorney has gone back to the grand jury on two separate occasions to re-present a case before that body in the hopes of obtaining an indictment that can withstand the scrutiny of a trial jury.
“This action by the prosecutor bespeaks the desperation that has engulfed their case. We have reached the point where one must be concerned that these desperate measures indicate more of a focus on obtaining a conviction at all costs than on seeking justice.”
The new allegation may lead the defense to ask for more time before trying the case as it would affect the underlying arguments.
Though more than 80 women have come forward in the last two years alleging varying degrees of sexual assault and misconduct in their dealings with Weinstein over the last four decades, New York prosecutors so far have filed charges related to only a few.
Manhattan prosecutors had originally charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting three women but last October had to drop one of six counts of sexual assault after his lawyers raised questions about inconsistencies in an accuser’s testimony. Lucia Evans, a once-aspiring actress and model, alleged that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a 2004 meeting. According to records made public, a witness who was present the first time Evans met the movie mogul told police that Evans said her sexual encounter with Weinstein was consensual.
Weinstein’s lawyers have repeatedly tried to get the other charges tossed out. They have alleged that a woman he is charged with raping twice in March 2013 continued to have extensive communications with him, calling it “a consensual intimate relationship documented in more than 400 emails.”
That woman has never publicly identified herself. Mimi Haleyi, the other victim whose case led to charges, has told reporters Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. Haleyi said it happened at Weinstein’s SoHo home in a room that looked like a child’s bedroom.
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