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Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction overturned by New York appeals court

Weinstein, 72, has been serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison following his conviction on charges of criminal sex act.
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Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction was overturned Thursday in New York, making way for a new trial.

The state Court of Appeals found that the judge in the landmark #MeToo trial prejudiced Weinstein, the former film mogul, with improper rulings, including a decision to let women testify about allegations that weren’t part of the case.

“We conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes because that testimony served no material non-propensity purpose,” the court said in a 4-3 decision. 

“The court compounded that error when it ruled that defendant, who had no criminal history, could be cross examined about those allegations as well as numerous allegations of misconduct that portrayed defendant in a highly prejudicial light,” it said.

Judge Jenny Rivera called the errors “egregious” and said the remedy is a new trial. Weinstein's accusers could again be called to testify if prosecutors decide to pursue another trial.

Judge Madeline Singas, in a dissenting opinion, accused the majority of “whitewashing the facts to conform to a he-said/she-said narrative” and failing to recognize that the jury was allowed to consider Weinstein’s past assaults.

“This Court has continued a disturbing trend of overturning juries’ guilty verdicts in cases involving sexual violence,” Singas wrote.

In a separate dissenting opinion, Judge Anthony Cannataro said the decision was an “unfortunate step backwards.”

'Our truth isn't overturned,' Weinstein accuser says

Louise Godbold, who used to work in commercial production and has alleged that Weinstein attacked her twice in 1991, told NBC News that her first reaction to the ruling was "a visceral one."

"Texting with other survivors, we’re all saying ‘our hands were shaking so much,'" she said Thursday. "All of the fear and the panic and the confusion from the original trauma comes back, and before you even have time to compose a thought, it’s your body that’s reacting."

Caitlin Dulany, an actor who has said Weinstein sexually assaulted her in a hotel room during the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, said she is "deeply shocked" and "saddened."

"I think I'm still in a little shock," she told NBC News. “I think later on a lot of the deep sadness will come through."

Filipina Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who accused Weinstein of groping her and captured him on tape saying, “I won’t do it again,” said the decision highlighted ongoing failures of the justice system and the courts.

Former actor and Weinstein accuser Dawn Dunning slammed the decision.

"While I’m stunned that the court threw out Weinstein’s conviction on legal technicalities, I am still proud that I testified and confronted that convicted rapist," Dunning said in a statement.

An attorney for Alexandra Canosa, a producer who has accused Weinstein of rape, said: “Today’s decision by the New York State Court of Appeals is very disappointing. Weinstein is a serial sexual predator and has been found guilty of being one by juries in two separate states.”

Attorney Lindsay Goldbrum, who represented six Weinstein accusers, called the decision a "leap backward for the rule of law" that could deter future sexual assault victims from coming forward.

“To all victims of sexual assault who are retraumatized by today’s ruling, I am so sorry," said Goldbrum, whose clients included model Tarale Wulff, who testified that Weinstein raped her at his Manhattan apartment in 2005 after having lured her there with talk of a movie audition.

Douglas H. Wigdor, an attorney who has represented eight Weinstein accusers, also slammed the decision and said it "is a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence."

"Courts routinely admit evidence of other uncharged acts where they assist juries in understanding issues concerning the intent, modus operandi or scheme of the defendant," he said in a statement.

Wigdor said overturning the conviction was "tragic in that it will require the victims to endure yet another trial."

Dulany said she hopes prosecutors will continue to pursue the case. A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said it “will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault.”

Godbold expressed concern that the accusers could have to relive their trauma.

“It was definitely re-traumatizing for them to have to go through the trial," she said. "And for any of them to have to go back on the witness stand … it’s just unconscionable that these women will have to go through the whole thing again if there’s a new trial."

She said she hopes the New York accusers remember that "our truth isn't overturned, even if his conviction is overturned."

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein appears in court in 2022.Etienne Laurent / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

Gloria Allred, who represented former “Project Runway” production assistant Mimi Haley, said Haley would consider testifying again. Weinstein's New York conviction stemmed from allegations made by Haley and former aspiring actor Jessica Mann.

"I commend Mimi on her courage and willingness to keep standing up for the truth," Allred said in a statement.

Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo, spoke at a news conference Thursday.

"Moments like this underscore why movements are necessary," she said. "And we have a movement. ... Almost seven years ago, because these brave women in this case broke their silence, millions and millions and millions of others found the strength to come forward and do the same. That will always be the victory.” 

Actor Ashley Judd, one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, said at the news conference, "I stand shoulder to shoulder with women who have bloody knees, because male sexual violence may knock us down, but we get right back up.”

Attorney 'confident' Weinstein's Los Angeles case will be upheld

Weinstein, 72, has been serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison following his conviction on charges of criminal sex act for forcibly performing oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 and third-degree rape for an attack on an aspiring actor in 2013.

The charges came to light in 2017 following investigative reports published by The New York Times and The New Yorker. Weinstein's pattern of sexual abuse and lack of accountability helped fuel the #MeToo movement.

Juda Engelmayer, a spokesperson for Weinstein, said Weinstein’s camp is “thrilled with the court’s decision.”

“We obviously have a long road ahead of us in California,” Engelmayer said in a statement to NBC News.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, said the decision was a "victory" for his client and "every criminal defendant in the United States of America."

Weinstein also faced charges in Los Angeles and was convicted in 2022 of rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was acquitted of a count of sexual battery in that case.

Evgeniya Chernyshova, one of his accusers in the Los Angeles case, did not have a comment on the overturned New York conviction. But her attorney, David M. Ring, said that he was disappointed and that Chernyshova feels bad for the New York accusers.

"However, both she and I are confident that Weinstein’s Los Angeles conviction for rape will be upheld," he said in a statement. "As the only victim who has now obtained a criminal conviction against Weinstein, she will continue to stand tall and do whatever necessary to obtain justice not only for herself but for all victims."

Mark Werksman, Weinstein's attorney in the Los Angeles case, said the overturned conviction was "the right result" and a "great outcome."

"We faced the same unfairness in the Los Angeles case where the judge allowed the prosecutors to admit evidence of five uncharged allegations of sexual assault," Werksman said in a statement. "It’s terribly unfair and creates confusion where you can never be sure whether the jury convicted your client because of charged conduct or uncharged conduct. That’s why these convictions have to be reversed."