By Terri Vermeulen Keith
Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty Monday in downtown Los Angeles to sex-related criminal counts involving five women, including a restored charge that had been dismissed by a judge.
Weinstein’s attorneys have filed a motion under seal in which they ask Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench to dismiss the entire indictment, and are considering whether to file new court papers contesting the challenged count of sexual battery by restraint against a woman in May 2010.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have filed a motion — also under seal — to admit evidence of uncharged alleged similar conduct by Weinstein.
Weinstein is due back in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom Oct. 25, with a hearing set Dec. 8 on the motions.
“We intend to challenge the contents of this indictment, as well as an effort by the prosecution to introduce evidence of other uncharged alleged victims in this case,” one of Weinstein’s attorneys, Mark Werksman, told reporters outside court. “We’re going to try like hell to make sure he gets a fair trial, but it’s tough. It’s tough, especially when you have the people, as I mentioned, basically training a water cannon of uncharged allegations at him. They’re trying to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at him, and we’re trying to limit the evidence that’s presented so that it’s fair, so that it’s admissible and so that Mr. Weinstein can get a fair trial, but that’s a challenge.”
Los Angeles County prosecutors initially charged Weinstein in January 2020 with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by use of force involving one woman on Feb. 18, 2013, and sexual battery by restraint involving another woman a day later.
Weinstein, now 69, was subsequently charged in April 2020 with sexual battery by restraint — the count that has been the subject of a legal battle. In November 2020, prosecutors added six more counts — three counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation — involving two alleged victims in Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2010.
The grand jury subsequently indicted Weinstein on the same charges.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench initially sustained the defense’s challenge to the count of sexual battery by restraint at a July 29 hearing, but agreed to allow the prosecution the opportunity to seek a grand jury indictment to amend the indictment.
The latest indictment alleges that Weinstein was “continually charged” with that crime since April 2020 and through Aug. 12, when the judge again sustained the defense’s challenge to that count, which was dismissed that day.
Weinstein’s attorneys had unsuccessfully challenged two other counts — forcible oral copulation and forcible rape involving another alleged victim between September 2004 and September 2005.
Weinstein was extradited July 20 from New York, where he has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for raping an aspiring actress and a criminal sex act against a former production assistant.
Werksman noted that his client has given up his right to a trial within 120 days of him being moved to Los Angeles because “there’s no way we could get all the important matters in this case adjudicated within that time period,” and that the trial is not likely to occur until next spring at the earliest.
Weinstein’s legal team had tried to block his transfer from New York to Los Angeles until he was “medically fit” to be moved. A court document filed in Los Angeles by the defense contended that Weinstein was in “urgent need of medical treatment to save his eyesight, and that this treatment could take anywhere from 24 to 36 months.”
“Those medical conditions are being addressed to the best of the county’s ability,” Weinstein’s attorney said outside court of his client, who was brought into court in a wheelchair. “We’re working with the county. We’re relying on their expertise to ensure that he gets the care he needs.”
Weinstein produced such films as “Shakespeare in Love,” which in 1999 received the best picture Oscar, and “Pulp Fiction.”