Harvey Weinstein leaves court August 26, 2019 in New York. (Photo: AP)
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty to a new indictment Monday that includes revised charges of predatory sexual assault, a development that caused the judge to delay the start of his trial until early next year.
The change to the case was intended to open the door for an actress to testify against Weinstein in a rape and sexual assault trial that had been scheduled to start on September 9.
Weinstein mostly kept quiet during a brief appearance in a Manhattan courtroom aside from some brief exchanges with Judge James Burke, who at one point scolded him for pulling out his cell phone during the proceeding.
After the judge agreed with defense lawyers that the trial needed to be put off so they could have time to respond to the revised charges, he told them the new trial date of Jan. 6 was firm. To make the point, he stared at the defendant and asked, “Mr. Weinstein, do you want to go to trial?”
“Not really,” Weinstein quipped.
Weinstein, 67, who’s free on $1 million bails, has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex.
After the hearing, his attorneys said they would ask the judge to dismiss the indictment, which they called a “desperate” attempt to salvage the case.
“I think the case itself is weak,” said his lawyer Donna Rotunno.
Weinstein previously pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.
The case remains about those two women, but prosecutors said the new indictment was needed to allow a third woman, Annabella Sciorra, to testify. Sciorra, who is best known for her work on “The Sopranos,” says Weinstein raped her inside her Manhattan apartment after she starred in a film for his movie studio in 1993.
Prosecutors can’t charge Weinstein with the alleged attack on Sciorra because it took place too long ago to be prosecuted under state law, but they want to use her testimony to prove that Weinstein had a pattern of assaulting women. That’s necessary to prove the charge of predatory sexual assault.
Sciorra’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, said she was willing to tell her story to bring Weinstein to justice. She criticized the defense team for saying they would try to get her testimony barred.
“Why are they so afraid of having additional witnesses testify?” she said.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Sciorra went public with her story in a story in The New Yorker in October 2017.
Court papers filed by the defense called the attempt to make Sciorra a prosecution witness an “11th-hour maneuver” that “raises significant legal issues” and had predicted it could delay the trial.
Separately, defense attorneys have asked an appeals court to move the trial case out of New York City because a “circus-like atmosphere” there fueled by news reports and social media posts. It’s unclear when the court will take up the request.