A judge ruled Wednesday that movie mogul-turned-convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein will face a total of 10 accusers at his Los Angeles trial – but not Rose McGowan or Daryl Hannah – and half of those witnesses will be alleging uncharged “prior bad acts.”
Prosecutors in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office sought to add up to 16 extra witnesses alleging sex crimes either too old or out of jurisdiction to be charged in L.A. During the hearing Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench excluded all but five of them.
But it was still five too many for Weinstein, who is facing 11 felony charges involving five other accusers in this, his second trial sex-crimes trial since 2020, which is expected to take place around September.
Weinstein appeared in court in a wheelchair, as he has with all his court appearances since arriving in Los Angeles in the summer of 2021.
The judge set June 10 for another hearing to decide on a trial date in the case, according to Greg Risling, spokesman for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
“We’re disappointed,” about the added accusers, Weinstein’s defense lawyer, Mark Werksman, told USA TODAY. “But we fight on. We will see him acquitted.”
The Los Angeles trial, like Weinstein’s New York trial, is likely to turn on prior bad acts testimony that prosecutors introduce to show juries a defendant’s alleged pattern of criminal behavior, hoping to bolster the chances of conviction on actual charged crimes.
Judges are supposed to allow or bar such witnesses based on whether their testimony is more probative than prejudicial.
Weinstein was convicted of two sex crimes in February 2020 in Manhattan following a trial in which four accusers testified about uncharged crimes and two accusers testified about charged crimes.
He is appealing the New York conviction and in December, during a hearing before a New York appellate court, some of the five judges appeared open to considering reversing Weinstein’s conviction and ordering a new trial because of prejudicial testimony.
So far, the ruling in that case is still pending, so Judge Lench had to make her decision in its absence. Prosecutors argued that California courts have upheld the use of such witnesses.
“(California) law allows prosecutors to use testimony about prior crimes that have not been charged because they were allegedly committed outside of California,” spokesman Risling said.
According to Variety and Rolling Stone, Werksman argued in court against allowing prior bad acts accusers on grounds such testimony could cloud any conviction in Los Angeles and make it more vulnerable to appeal.
The documents in the case and the full names of all of Weinstein’s accusers are still sealed (they were referred to by first names in court).
But according to what the lawyers discussed at the hearing, two of them included McGowan, one of the first #MeToo accusers of Weinstein as a source for the New York Times’ takedown of Weinstein in October 2017. The other was Hannah, another early accuser, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein sexually harassed her on two different occasions.
Another name that came up in court was that of Miriam Haley, also known as Mimi Haleyi, who was one of the two complaining witnesses in the New York case. Weinstein was found guilty of criminal sexual act in the first degree related to Haley and rape in the third degree related to accuser Jessica Mann.
Judge Lench ruled Wednesday that jurors in the Los Angeles trial can be told of this conviction but Haley will not be called to testify.
After his conviction, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in an upstate New York prison near Buffalo. In July 2021, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, he was extradited to Los Angeles to face the charges there, which were first lodged against him by the former Los Angeles district attorney on the day his New York trial opened in February 2020.
More celebs in legal trouble:Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. pleads guilty to forcibly touching woman at NY nightclub