Weinstein pleads not guilty to sexual assaults in California
FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020 file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury deliberations in his rape trial in New York. New York prison officials have handed over Weinstein for transport to California to face sexual assault charges. The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says the transfer happened about 9:25 a.m. Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, July 21, 2021 2:48PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 21, 2021 2:48PM EDT
LOS ANGELES - Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday to four counts of rape and seven other sexual assault counts.
Sheriff's deputies brought the 69-year-old convicted rapist into court in a wheelchair. He was wearing a brown jail jumpsuit and face mask. Attorney Mark Werksman entered the plea for the disgraced movie mogul a day after Weinstein was extradited to California from New York, where he was serving a 23-year prison term.
Weinstein spoke only to say “thank you” to Judge Sergio Tapia, who wished him good luck as the hearing ended.
He now awaits a second trial on a second coast, and the possibility of another lengthy sentence.
Weinstein's indictment involves five women in incidents spanning from 2004 to 2013. Most are said to have taken place in the hotels in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles that the New York-based Weinstein would make his headquarters for Hollywood business. Some took place during Oscars week, when his films were perennial contenders before the #MeToo movement brought him down.
He pleaded not guilty to four counts of rape, four counts of forcible oral copulation, two counts of sexual battery by restraint and one count of sexual penetration by use of force, charges that together could bring a sentence of 140 years.
Werksman told the judge that he was filing documents requesting the dismissal of three of the counts, saying they were beyond the statute of limitations.
“They're baseless, they're from long, long ago, they're uncorroborated,” Werksman said of the charges after the hearing. “We are confident that if we have a fair trial he will be acquitted.”
The women were not identified in the indictment.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents two of them, said the age of the incidents was not a factor in their truth.
“Allegations of sexual assault and rape do take a long time to report, so the idea that they may not have disclosed to a law enforcement officer for many years does not mean that those are not credible,” Allred said.
The terms of Weinstein's extradition require that his trial begin by November. Werksman said Weinstein had yet to waive that right. But it would be unusual for the trial to begin that quickly. Weinstein returns to court for a motions hearing next week.
A New York jury found Weinstein guilty of raping an aspiring actress in 2013 in a Manhattan hotel room and forcibly performing oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 at his Manhattan apartment.
He is appealing that conviction, seeking a new trial. Weinstein maintains his innocence and contends that any sexual activity was consensual.
Los Angeles prosecutors first charged Weinstein in January 2020, just as jury selection was getting underway in the New York City case.
More charges were added later in the year, and in March, he was indicted by an LA County grand jury. That indictment was unsealed by the judge on Wednesday, but the allegations in it are essentially identical to those already revealed in previous criminal complaints.
The pandemic and procedural delays meant that Weinstein's extradition took well over a year. His attorneys cited his declining health as they sought to keep him at a state prison near Buffalo, New York, until jury selection began in the Los Angeles trial.
At Wednesday's hearing, Werksman requested a health examination of Weinstein. He said outside court that he was especially concerned for Weinstein's vision.
“He's going blind in one eye,” the attorney said.
Once a major power in Hollywood along with his brother Bob and their movie companies Miramax and The Weinstein Co., Harvey Weinstein would be marked as the archvillain of the #MeToo movement starting late in 2017, when women's accounts were published in the New York Times and the New Yorker. He would be arrested in New York seven months later.
Rumours about Weinstein's behaviour swirled in film industry circles for decades, but he silenced many accusers with payoffs, nondisclosure agreements and the fear that he could crush their careers.
“Anyone who abuses their power and influence to prey upon others will be brought to justice,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement Wednesday.
The Los Angeles charges came from a task force established to tackle sexual misconduct in Hollywood as #MeToo gained momentum.
Weinstein and porn performer Ron Jeremy are among the few charged by the team, which declined to prosecute more than 20 famous men because the allegations against them were too old or could not be corroborated.