NY jury se­lec­tion be­gins in We­in­stein’s rape trial

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - BY TOM HAYS

NEW YORK — The judge at Har­vey We­in­stein’s sex­ual as­sault trial pressed ahead with the start of jury se­lec­tion Tues­day, re­ject­ing a de­fense re­quest for a “cool­ing-off pe­riod” fol­low­ing the burst of pub­lic­ity over the fil­ing of new charges against the Hol­ly­wood mogul in Los An­ge­les.

We­in­stein’s lawyers sug­gested that the tim­ing of the new sex-crime charges, an­nounced Mon­day, was de­lib­er­ate on the part of pros­e­cu­tors, and they asked for a de­lay to let the pub­lic­ity sub­side.

“For a pros­e­cu­tor, this is Christ­mas morn­ing — the morn­ing of jury se­lec­tion to have him smeared ev­ery­where,“de­fense at­tor­ney Arthur Ai­dala said.

Judge James Burke re­fused a post­pone­ment, say­ing he is con­fi­dent the jury will un­der­stand We­in­stein is pre­sumed in­no­cent, and the first 120 po­ten­tial ju­rors were brought in, step one in a process ex­pected to take weeks, given heavy news cov­er­age of the case and the way the once-pow­er­ful stu­dio boss has been cast as the arch-vil­lain of the #MeToo move­ment.

The judge said it would be a high-pro­file case and asked if there was any­one who could not be im­par­tial. About 40 hands went up. Those peo­ple were dis­missed.

By the time court ended for the day, dozens more had been re­jected, and the pool was down to 36. An­other group of prospec­tive ju­rors is ex­pected to re­port Wednesday.

The day be­gan with We­in­stein, 67, shuf­fling into court with a walker fol­low­ing re­cent back surgery, and the ses­sion soon erupted in le­gal fire­works, with the judge deny­ing a re­quest from pros­e­cu­tors to re­voke the de­fen­dant’s bail and jail him un­til the trial is over.

Pros­e­cu­tor Joan Il­luzzi ar­gued that the new case in Los An­ge­les in­creased We­in­stein’s in­cen­tive to flee.

“There is a grave risk that this de­fen­dant will re­al­ize at some point that the ev­i­dence is over­whelm­ing,“she said.

While turn­ing pros­e­cu­tors down, Burke ripped into We­in­stein and threat­ened to jail him for tex­ting on his cell­phone in the court­room.

“Mr. We­in­stein, is this re­ally the way you want to end up in jail by tex­ting and vi­o­lat­ing a court or­der?” he said, cut­ting off the de­fen­dant be­fore he could an­swer.

We­in­stein was in­tro­duced to the group and stood up with the use of his walker.

We­in­stein is charged in New York with rap­ing a woman in a Man­hat­tan ho­tel room in 2013 and forcibly per­form­ing a sex act on an­other woman in the city in 2006. He has said any sex­ual ac­tiv­ity was con­sen­sual. The most se­ri­ous charges against him carry a manda­tory sen­tence of life in prison.

On Mon­day, pros­e­cu­tors in Los An­ge­les charged him with sex­u­ally as­sault­ing two women on suc­ces­sive nights at ho­tels in L.A. and Bev­erly Hills dur­ing Os­car week in 2013. Those charges could bring up to 28 years be­hind bars.

The judge es­ti­mated jury se­lec­tion will take at least two weeks.

STEPHANIE KEITH/GETTY

Har­vey We­in­stein, 67, makes his way out of the court­house Tues­day in New York. Judge James Burke threat­ened to jail We­in­stein for tex­ting on his cell­phone in the court­room.

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