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Harvey Weinstein judge declines to dismiss charges in rape case, sets pretrial hearing for March

Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul whose ...

Posted: Dec. 20, 2018 4:46 PM
Updated: Dec. 20, 2018 4:46 PM

Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul whose downfall helped launch the #MeToo movement, is due back in New York court on March 7 after a judge Thursday morning ordered a pretrial hearing in the rape case.

The proceedings lasted just 10 minutes, a remarkably quick resolution to a highly anticipated and pivotal appearance that the defense had hoped would end with the charges against Weinstein getting dropped.

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"We are obviously disappointed that the court did not dismiss the indictment, but Judge (James) Burke has ruled, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend this case to the best of our ability," Weinstein's attorney, Ben Brafman, said outside the Manhattan courthouse.

Weinstein, 66, has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges, including predatory sexual assault and rape, in connection with two women in separate incidents. Thursday's hearing came in response to a motion filed by Brafman to dismiss the remaining counts or to hold evidentiary hearings on whether certain witnesses can testify.

The judge denied both requests, saying the defendant can explore witness credibility issues at trial, court documents show.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents one of the alleged victims, said she is satisfied that the case will move to a pretrial hearing, adding that the case against Weinstein is strong.

"This indictment was based on evidence and testimony before the grand jury," she said upon leaving court. "It was not based on the #MeToo movement. So, let's be clear about that."

Actresses Marisa Tomei and Kathy Najimy, as well as members of Time's Up, the Hollywood movement formed in response to Weinstein, attended Thursday's hearing.

"Together, we stand in solidarity with all survivors everywhere," Time's Up president and CEO Lisa Borders said outside court. "Frankly, we are relieved that Harvey Weinstein failed in his efforts to avoid accountability for his actions, and we are very happy that none of the charges were dismissed."

How we got here

Though publicly reviled since last year's harrowing stories in The New York Times and The New Yorker, the criminal case against Weinstein has shown some signs of unraveling in recent months.

In October, prosecutors dismissed one charge against Weinstein after officials learned of inconsistencies in one accuser's story and learned that a detective had failed to bring those issues to prosecutors.

The detective told an accuser to delete cell phone messages before turning her phones over to authorities, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said. The detective was taken off the case.

Brafman argued the case was "irreparably tainted by police misconduct" and wanted it dismissed. In lieu of that, Weinstein's attorney also had asked for an evidentiary hearing to examine conduct by police and prosecutors in the case.

Weinstein faces five felony charges: two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree and one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape.

Weinstein, once one of the most powerful film producers in Hollywood, has been accused by a number of women, including several well-known actresses, of using his influence to sexually harass and assault them and then to avoid repercussions. His downfall led women across the world to speak out about similar allegations involving powerful figures abusing their power, a cultural force known as the #MeToo movement.

But despite its power, the #MeToo movement has had few test cases in criminal court. Comedian Bill Cosby's conviction in April was the first -- and, so far, only -- celebrity criminal trial of the #MeToo era.

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