Harvey Weinstein NYC rape conviction overturned by appeals court

NEW YORK — In a bombshell ruling Thursday morning, the New York state Court of Appeals has overturned fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s Manhattan rape and sex crime conviction.

The 4-3 ruling reverses a Manhattan Supreme Court jury’s 2020 verdict that Weinstein, 72, was guilty of rape for an attack on aspiring actress Jessica Mann at the DoubleTree hotel in 2013, and criminal sex act for assaulting film assistant Miriam Haleyi at his SoHo loft in 2006.

The panel ruled that the trial court judge, James Burke, shouldn’t have allowed testimony of “uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes,” then further erred by ruling Weinstein could be cross-examined on those allegations and others.

“The result of the court’s rulings, on the one hand, was to bolster their credibility and diminish defendant’s character before the jury,” Judge Jenny Rivera wrote in the majority opinion. “On the other hand, the threat of a cross-examination highlighting these untested allegations undermined defendant’s right to testify.”

“The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial,” Rivera wrote.

Weinstein’s unmasking as a sexual predator helped launch the #MeToo movement. He was also found guilty of rape and sexual assault by a Los Angeles court in 2022 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. That verdict still stands.

“We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault,” said Emily Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.

Weinstein remained in custody Thursday morning in the Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., where he was serving his 23-year sentence. A spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said the agency is waiting for guidance from the court before releasing him.

In a blistering dissent, Judge Madeline Singas wrote that the panel fundamentally misunderstands sexual violence by men with powerful positions.

“By whitewashing the facts to conform to a he-said/she-said narrative, by ignoring evidence of defendant’s manipulation and premeditation, which clouded issues of intent, and by failing to recognize that the jury was entitled to consider defendant’s previous assaults, this Court has continued a disturbing trend of overturning juries’ guilty verdicts in cases involving sexual violence,” Singas wrote.

The majority decision “ignores the nuances of how sexual violence is perpetrated and perceived, and demonstrates the majority’s utter lack of understanding of the dynamics of sexual assault,” she wrote. “Because New York’s women deserve better, I dissent.”

On Thursday afternoon, Weinstein’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, stood alongside his legal team across the street from the Manhattan courthouse where the Miramax founder was convicted in 2020, and praised the ruling.

“From our collective hundreds of years of experience, we knew Harvey Weinstein did not get a fair trial,” Aidala said. “At this courthouse behind us, at that trial, the law was not applied fairly to Harvey Weinstein. What the Court of Appeals, the highest court in the greatest state in the greatest country, said today is that no one is above the law but no one is below the law either.”

He said Weinstein is prepared to testify in his own defense at a new trial.

“We’re relieved that our system of justice wasn’t perverted,” Aidala said. “There was so much pressure because Harvey was the face of this movement that he had to be convicted under any circumstances, even if you have to throw the rulebook out the window.”

The appeals court decision dismantles a legacy achievement by former Manhattan DA Cy Vance, who retired a year after the landmark conviction. Vance did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the lead prosecutor in the case, who’s now in private practice, declined comment Thursday.

At issue was testimony by three women —Taralê Wulff who testified that Weinstein sexually assaulted her at work when she was a waitress at Cipriani’s and raped her inside his SoHo loft in 2005; Lauren Young, who said he pinned her against a hotel room sink in Beverly Hills in 2013 while groping her and masturbating; and Dawn Dunning, who testified about running out of a hotel when Weinstein tried to force her into a threesome in 2004 to get a movie role.

“The trial court abused its discretion when it ruled that defendant, who had no criminal history, could be cross-examined about prior uncharged alleged bad acts and despicable behavior which was immaterial to his in-court credibility, and which served no purpose other than to display for the jury defendant’s loathsome character,” Rivera wrote.

Lawyer Dougals Wigdor, who represents Wulff and Dunning, blasted the court’s “tragic” decision.

“Today’s decision is a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence. Courts routinely admit evidence of other uncharged acts where they assist juries in understanding issues concerning the intent, modus operandi or scheme of the defendant,” Wigdor said. “The jury was instructed on the relevance of this testimony and overturning the verdict is tragic in that it will require the victims to endure yet another trial.”

Lawyer Lindsay Goldbrum, who represented six Weinstein accusers, including Wulff, called the decision “a leap backward for the rule of law.”

The three who testified meant to “give a voice to dozens of other women who suffered so much,” she said. “Today’s ruling unfortunately casts a dark shadow on their bravery and will undoubtedly deter future sexual assault victims from coming forward.”

Model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who wore a wire after he accosted her in 2015, told the Daily News she’s more than happy to testify against the movie mogul if the district attorney tries him again — though the Court of Appeals decision makes it unlikely she’d be allowed to do so.

Vance’s office famously declined to pursue her case, though Gutierrez testified against Weinstein in his Los Angeles trial.

“Regarding 2015, he could have been in jail already and they never called me on the stand in 2020,” she said.

Weinstein was convicted in the Manhattan case in the same courtroom where former president Donald Trump is on trial in his historic hush money case. Trump is sitting at the same defense table where Weinstein sat in 2020.

—With Sheetal Banchariya, Brian Niemietz and Molly Crane-Newman


(With Sheetal Banchariya and Molly Crane-Newman.)