Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction overturned in New York

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction in New York has been overturned, on the basis that he did not receive a fair trial.

The New York Court of Appeals said prosecutors in the pivotal #MeToo case called witnesses whose accusations were not part of the charges against him.

The court said that meant he was unfairly tried for past behaviour, and ordered a new trial.

Weinstein, 72, remains in prison. He was separately convicted of rape in LA.

The Silence Breakers, a victims' group, called the reversal "disheartening and profoundly unjust", while lawyers for victims said the decision to retry was a "leap backwards" and "tragic".

Weinstein's lawyer, Arthur Aidala, hailed the reversal as a win for the legal system.

"There are still people who are very unpopular in our society, but we still have to apply the law fairly to them," Mr Aidala said at a news conference in New York City.

"In this courthouse behind us, at that trial, the law was not applied fairly to Harvey Weinstein."

In an interview with the New York Times, he said the decision was a victory "for every criminal defendant in the state of New York".

The court reached a 4-3 ruling on Thursday, stating that the trial "erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes."

The decision also said the trial judge compounded the error by letting Weinstein be cross-examined in a way that portrayed him in a "highly prejudicial" light.

"The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial," the court found.

Judge Madeline Singas, one of the dissenters, however said that with the decision, "this Court continues to thwart the steady gains survivors of sexual violence have fought for in our criminal justice system".

Accusations against Weinstein began in 2017 and sparked the #MeToo movement, which exposed sexual abuse at the highest levels of the Hollywood film industry and beyond.

He faced two trials. In New York, he was jailed for 23 years in 2020 for sexually assaulting a former production assistant in 2006, and raping an aspiring actress in 2013.

He was last year sentenced in California to 16 years for raping an Italian model and actress in a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013. That conviction is not affected by the appeal decision in New York.

Weinstein also faces two charges of indecent assault in the United Kingdom.

He currently remains in prison at Mohawk Correctional Facility in New York state. He was previously extradited to LA to stand trial.

It will now be up to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose predecessor Cyrus Vance brought the case, to decide whether to retry Weinstein in New York.

"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 spokesperson for Mr Bragg.

Mr Bragg's office is separately in the midst of a criminal hush-money trial against former president Donald Trump.

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer who represented eight of Weinstein's accusers, said the decision was "tragic" and "a major step back in holding those accountable for acts of sexual violence".

"Courts routinely admit evidence of other uncharged acts... the jury was instructed on the relevance of this testimony," he added. "It will require the victims to endure yet another trial."

Lindsay Goldbrum, who represented six Harvey Weinstein victims, said the appeal court's criticism of the use of witnesses not directly connected to the charges was a "leap backwards" and damaging to future cases.

She said that the witnesses had "nothing to gain personally from participating in the trial. Their only goal was to give a voice to dozens of other women who suffered so much".

Gloria Allred, who represented the key prosecution witness Mimi Haley, said that her client would consider testifying again in any new trial "even though the process of testifying was gruelling and retraumatising for Mimi".

The Silence Breakers said that the decision "does not diminish the validity of our experiences or our truth; it's merely a setback. We continue to stand strong and advocate for that change. We will continue to fight for justice for survivors everywhere".

Weinstein co-founded the Miramax film studio, whose hits included Shakespeare in Love, which won best picture at the Academy Awards, and Pulp Fiction.

Weinstein's films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes.

His own eponymous film studio filed for bankruptcy in March 2018.