NEW YORK– A New York Supreme Court judge banned reporters and the general public from portions of Friday’s pretrial hearing in the sexual assault case against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Judge James Burke on Friday morning granted requests by both defense and prosecuting attorneys to close major portions of the day’s proceedings — including arguments over whether prosecutors can introduce at his September trial evidence of alleged wrongdoing for which Weinstein is not charged.
That kind of evidence could involve other accusers. Weinstein’s charges relate to allegations of sexual assault against two women; but more than 80 women have publicly accused the former film executive of wrongdoing ranging from unwanted advances to rape.
Burke also closed another portion of the hearing — a portion expected to cover whether the prosecution can use certain evidence to impeach Weinstein’s credibility if he testifies.
The sides had argued to Burke in letters this month that allowing the news media to attend these portions of Friday’s hearing would prejudice potential jurors, perhaps hampering the chances of the defense and the prosecution getting a fair trial.
The state also argued that any evidence that Burke deems admissible will be public at trial. And it said that it wanted to safeguard the privacy of potential witnesses.
“If the court precludes such witnesses from testifying at trial, their identities should remain protected from public disclosure,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Osborn wrote in her April 16 letter to Burke.
Gloria Allred, an attorney who represents one of the accusers in the trial, as well as a separate potential witness, spoke to CNN after Burke decided to close portions of the hearing.
“I think an important point is some potential witnesses who the prosecution may wish to call during prosecution have never made their allegations public, nor has their identity been made public,” Allred said.
Trial now scheduled to start in September
The disgraced movie mogul, whose downfall helped launch the #MeToo movement, is accused of raping a woman in a New York hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman at his Manhattan apartment in 2006.
His trial had been set to begin June 3, but Burke on Friday moved it to September 9.
Weinstein faces five felony charges: two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree, and one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Weinstein case: How did we get here?
Weinstein had faced a sixth felony charge, but it was dismissed in October after a New York police detective was found to have mishandled evidence. Weinstein’s petition to dismiss the remaining charges was declined in December.AlertMe