Harvey Weinstein pleads not guilty to rape charges in L.A.
Harvey Weinstein made his first appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday, pleading not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault and kicking off a legal process that will see him stand trial in connection with alleged attacks on women that in some cases date to nearly two decades ago.
Weinstein, 69, was indicted in April on multiple counts of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual battery. He faces 11 charges in connection with allegations of assaults said to have taken place between 2004 and 2013 in Beverly Hills and West L.A.
The disgraced Hollywood mogul, who is already serving a 23-year prison sentence in New York after he was convicted of sexual assault in a Manhattan trial last year, was extradited to California on Tuesday over the objections of his defense attorneys, who say he desperately needs surgery to avoid losing sight in one eye.
Weinstein has denied all wrongdoing and appealed his conviction in New York.
On Wednesday, Weinstein appeared in a downtown L.A. criminal courthouse wearing a brown jail jumper and seated in a wheelchair. He did not speak during the arraignment except to say “thank you” after the judge wished him good luck. During the brief hearing, defense attorney Mark Werksman said he had filed a motion to dismiss three of the 11 counts against Weinstein, claiming the statute of limitations had long expired.
The counts relate to one woman’s allegation of sexual battery stemming from a 2010 incident, and another woman’s allegation of rape between September 2004 and September 2005, according to court records. In his filing, Werksman noted that the statute of limitations for each crime is 10 years. While there is no longer a statute of limitations on sexual assault in California, that law does not apply to crimes committed before 2017.
Former Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey first brought charges against Weinstein in January 2020, on the eve of jury selection in the Manhattan case. While several accusers came forward to the Los Angeles Police Department in 2017 shortly after reports of Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior surfaced, prosecutors said they needed years to win over the women’s trust and verify their stories.
Only one woman’s identity has been made public. Lauren Young, an aspiring actress who was 23 at the time of her alleged assault, has accused Weinstein of trapping her in a room at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills and groping her while he masturbated. Young testified as a “prior bad acts” witness during Weinstein’s New York trial.
A second accuser in the L.A. case, an Italian model who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity in 2017, has said Weinstein attacked her inside Mr. C’s hotel in Beverly Hills in 2013. The woman alleged that Weinstein barged into her hotel room and violently raped her.
Weinstein’s first L.A. appearance was a more muted affair than his New York hearings. Roughly two dozen reporters and attorneys lined the 13th floor of the downtown criminal courthouse waiting for his arrival Wednesday morning. Among them was Gloria Allred, who is representing two of the women whose allegations led to charges in the Los Angeles case, and several other women who could serve as witnesses against Weinstein at trial.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Allred said Wednesday’s hearing was significant as it marked the first time Weinstein had to answer for allegations in California, where many accusers waited while Weinstein first stood trial in New York.
“There has been, to date, no access to justice for those who are victims in the Los Angeles case,” she said.
The indictment against Weinstein was unsealed Wednesday, though a protective order has been issued to keep the names of his accusers and transcripts from April grand jury hearings out of public view, Werksman said.
Weinstein has a right to stand trial within 120 days of his extradition, meaning proceedings will take place by mid-November unless his defense counsel waives that right. Werksman said Wednesday that he had yet to do so and described the charges against his client as unprovable.
“These charges stem from allegations made years and years ago,” he said. “They are not confirmed by scientific evidence.”
There was no forensic evidence presented in the Manhattan trial, where Weinstein was convicted of sexually assaulting a former production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, and an aspiring actress, Jessica Mann.
Beth Fegan, an attorney who represented many women in a class-action lawsuit against Weinstein as well as one of the accusers in the Los Angeles case, said her client can finally see an end in sight after waiting at least 15 years to see him answer for his alleged assault.
“She is happy that things are finally moving forward. They have been waiting a long time,” Fegan said. “She and the other charging witnesses were obviously gratified to see what happened in New York, but with the appeal there, having certainty and moving forward on the charges here will make sure that justice is served.”
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