Exactly one month ahead of his criminal trial, Harvey Weinstein appeared in court for a bail hearing that was necessitated by changes in the law.
The former head of Miramax and the Weinstein Company, once alternately feared and celebrated as one of the most powerful men in movies, hobbled into the downtown courthouse limping and relying, at times, on a cane or the help of an assistant. He was dressed in an ill-fitting light grey suit, his hair was thinning, and he looked pale and enfeebled.
“This is tough,” said Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s defense attorneys. “This is tough on anybody going through this and dealing with the scrutiny not only in the courtroom, but in the court of public opinion.” She added that Weinstein has been dealing with back issues.
A New York judge said Friday that Weinstein’s $1 million bail will remain the same for now. Another hearing to determine his bail will continue on Wednesday.
Weinstein was forced into court, due to an overhaul to New York’s criminal justice system, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, just a few days before the disgraced Hollywood mogul’s high-profile sexual assault trial is set to begin. The new changes in New York will include eliminating bail for nonviolent felonies and expediting the timeframe for prosecutors to supply evidence to the defense. Prosecutors argued that Weinstein presents a flight risk due to his wealth and that his bail should be increased to $5 million. They noted that he has had dozens and dozens of violations with his ankle monitor and that investigators have been sent to his home in Bedford, N.Y., on multiple occasions.
“He is flagrantly disregarding the bracelet monitoring system,” said Joan Illuzzi, one of the prosecutors.
Weinstein’s defense attorneys said the violations were often the result of faulty cell service, as well as issues related to wearing the monitor due to a leg injury.
“I think the bracelet should be removed,” said Rotunno, noting that Weinstein had been compliant with court orders and had appeared on time at hearings. She noted that her client was eager for the trial to commence, because he maintains his innocence. “He appreciates the court’s position,” said Rotunno. “He wants to come to court.”
Prosecutors said Weinstein could use his financial resources to flee the country, noting that he had sold $60 million in real estate over the past two years and has a penchant for flying in private planes. Rotunno said Weinstein flies private because his ankle monitor presents difficulties getting through security. Defense attorneys said much of Weinstein’s wealth was tied up because his company went bankrupt due to his legal issues and he has to pay alimony to two ex-wives. Prosecutors handed his defense attorney financial forms asking for a complete rundown of Weinstein’s assets.
Photographers and videographers flanked the outside of the courthouse and lined its corridors, cordoned off behind barricades.
During a brief hearing, prosecutors asked Judge James Burke to issue a gag order so that Rotunno cannot appear on TV, which they argued can sway the jury ahead of the trial. The judge denied the gag order.
Weinstein faces five sex crimes charges of rape and sexual assault from two separate incidents in 2006 when he was alleged to have performed a forcible sexual act on a woman, and in 2013 when he was alleged to have raped a different woman in a Manhattan hotel room. In addition to the two alleged victims, the jury is expected to hear from other alleged victims, including “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, whom the judge has allowed to testify that Weinstein raped her 26 years ago. Jurors were recently told that the upcoming trial will last up to two months.
Weinstein has pled not guilty, and maintains that any sexual activity was consensual. If convicted, Weinstein could face life in prison. The allegations of sexual abuse against Weinstein set off a widespread reckoning in the media and entertainment business, galvanized the Me Too movement, and inspired a larger debate about how to make sets and offices safer. In the weeks and months following Weinstein’s fall, other influential figures such as Brett Ratner, Les Moonves, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. were hit with allegations of abuse. Thus far, Weinstein is one of the only men accused of abuse to face criminal charges. During his decades at the epicenter of indie film, Weinstein backed Oscar-winning hits such as “Shakespeare in Love,” “The English Patient” and “Pulp Fiction.”