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Harvey Weinstein rape conviction overturned

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A 2020 rape conviction that landed Harvey Weinstein in prison has been overturned, with a retrial now expected to follow.
Harvey Weinstein conviction

TW: Rape

Disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has had a 2020 rape conviction overturned in a New York appeals court.

The court found “egregious errors” had occurred in the original trial by allowing the testimony of women who claimed that Weinstein assaulted them, even though they were not part of the charges he faced.

Weinstein’s 23-year prison sentence has now been thrown out, with a retrial expected. He will remain in prison on a 16-year sentence handed down in a separate case last year.

Harvey Weinstein conviction

Weinstein was convicted in 2020 of historical rape and sexual assault charges. The charges related to allegations made by three female actors.

He was accused of demanding sexual favours in exchange for helping the actors advance their careers – something the prosecution described as “common behaviour and a well-known secret throughout the film industry”.

Weinstein was also said to have abused his power and influence to force unwanted sexual encounters.

Weinstein appeal

In a decision delivered this week, the New York Court of Appeals found “egregious errors” in the process that led to Weinstein’s 2020 conviction.

This largely related to allowing the court to hear testimony from women who claimed that Weinstein assaulted them, even though they were not part of the charges he faced. These witnesses detailed alleged sexual assaults committed by Weinstein, to demonstrate a pattern of behaviour by him.

However, the court found that Weinstein wasn’t judged on the conduct for which he was charged, but rather “irrelevant, prejudicial, and untested allegations of prior bad acts”.

The panel of judges voted 4-3 in favour of upholding the appeal.

They called it an “abuse of judicial discretion” to allow “untested allegations” in court.

One judge who opposed the majority opinion said it represented an “unfortunate step backwards” in New York’s understanding of sex crimes, adding it was “endangering decades of progress in this incredibly complex and nuanced area of law”.

Response

Ashley Judd – an actress who came forward with allegations against Weinstein as part of the #MeToo movement – called the decision an “act of institutional betrayal”.

Actress Dawn Dunning – who was one of the witnesses who shared her account during the case – said she was “stunned” by the verdict.

Dunning said she didn’t regret sharing her account, saying it helped “other women [find] strength and courage because I and other Weinstein survivors confronted him publicly”.

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