6:18pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Bankruptcy Judge Gives Harvey Weinstein Access to Accuser Emails
Harvey Weinstein's criminal defense team has been given a boost from an unexpected source: a federal bankruptcy judge.
As part of The Weinstein Co.'s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, Weinstein's legal team asked the court to order the mogul's former company to turn over his personnel file and emails related to alleged sexual misconduct victims. Weinstein argued that if he were able to exonerate himself from any of the sexual assault and harassment allegations that have been made against him, it would minimize the burden on TWC with regard to its potential liability in those actions.
TWC objected to the motion, arguing that Weinstein made no connection between his document requests and the bankruptcy proceedings and claiming that reviewing and turning over the documents would cost the company at least $750,000. Weinstein then offered to provide search terms with time limitations to narrow the request and to reimburse any related costs.
On Tuesday, amid a hearing that also saw the court approve Lantern Capital's bid to buy TWC's assets, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath granted Weinstein's request.
"I think that Mr. Weinstein is entitled to a copy of the emails," she said. "I am pleased that it's been limited to emails by and between him and the alleged victims. This will not only limit the cost that Mr. Weinstein has now agreed to pick up, but it will also limit the information provided to him to information that may, in fact, provide a benefit to the estate."
Weinstein attorney Benjamin Brafman had estimated that TWC has hundreds of thousands of emails, texts and other personal correspondence that could be relevant to his defense in pending criminal investigations arising from allegations of sexual misconduct, according to a declaration filed Thursday.
"[E]ven with the very limited materials that I have had access to, it has quickly become apparent to me that the allegations relating to forcible sexual misconduct are entirely without merit," writes Brafman. "Counsel has reason to believe that the materials we are requesting access to are highly exculpatory in nature and although these materials would undoubtedly be made available to Mr. Weinstein and his counsel 'after' arrest or indictment, his ability to defend himself require their production now, so that a terrible miscarriage of justice can be avoided."
The attorney says correspondence between Weinstein and "many if not all" of his accusers "will substantially undermine claims of an abusive relationship." (Read the full declaration here.)
Walrath instructed the parties to draft a protocol on how to deal with any potentially privileged information and come up with an estimate of how much Weinstein will have to reimburse TWC for producing the documents. She also suggested they stipulate to a protective order that would limit the parties who could view the evidence to attorneys for Weinstein, TWC and the committee of unsecured creditors.