Call for total dismissal as judge throws out one Weinstein charge
A New York judge on Thursday threw out one of six sexual assault allegations against disgraced Hollywood tycoon Harvey Weinstein, a victory for a defence now clamouring for the entire case to be dismissed.
Weinstein, an international pariah after being accused by more than 80 women of sexual misconduct, is still charged with rape in March 2013 and a forced act of oral sex in 2006, which could see him spend the rest of his life in prison.
The 66-year-old father of five was arrested in May, eight months after he was initially accused in the media of decades of sexual misconduct.
He is out on $1m (R14.5m) bail and denies any non-consensual sex. On Thursday he heard the prosecution agree to drop a forced act of oral sex lodged by Lucia Evans against him in 2004, due to witness inconsistencies.
A letter from prosecutors, subsequently unsealed by the judge, revealed credibility issues and seemed to suggest that Evans, an aspiring actress in 2004, may have performed oral sex on Weinstein of her own volition, in the hope of obtaining an acting part.
While Weinstein is still fending off allegations related to two other women, Thursday’s decision amounts to a serious setback for the prosecution, who have already been criticised for their track record on bringing Weinstein and other alleged sex offenders to justice.
“We are moving full steam ahead,” prosecutor Joan IlluzziOrbon said in court.
Defence lawyer Ben Brafman said his client was “obviously relieved and to some de- gree pleased” and accused the district attorney of prosecuting Weinstein under pressure from the press.
“When you are vilified in the media, as Mr Weinstein has been, there is a rush to judgment which is offensive to the concept of fairness and due process,” he said.
The next hearing is scheduled for December 20.
Brafman, who helped for- mer IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn escape criminal prosecution for alleged sexual assault in 2011, insisted there was no condemnation of the #MeToo movement.
But “when a movement pushes the prosecutor to arrest people who have not committed a crime and then charges them with those crimes it’s a dangerous movement,” he said.