6:51am PT by Eriq Gardner
Judge Rejects Harvey Weinstein's Motion to Dismiss Assault Case
On Thursday, a New York judge rejected Harvey Weinstein's attempt to put an end to the criminal charges he's facing for allegedly sexually assaulting two women.
The movie producer argued that prosecutorial misconduct required dismissal. The judge privately told attorneys at a hearing on Thursday that the case would continue. Weinstein is facing five counts of rape and sexual assault.
Weinstein attorney Benjamin Brafman has been building a case on what he calls a "deeply flawed indictment," saying that charges had been brought upon political pressure. He specifically argued that the Manhattan district attorney failed to turn over exculpatory evidence that includes witnesses and communications that would show consensual relationships with the accusers.
In October, a count against the disgraced mogul was tossed out after testimony contradicting an accuser's account was not passed along by the New York Police Department to prosecutors.
But Weinstein's arguments won't stop the case on its path to trial sometime next year.
In a written decision that followed the hearing, New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke wrote, "The People [of New York] generally enjoy wide discretion in presenting their case and are not required to present exculpatory or mitigating evidence in the Grand Jury. They are not obligated to search for evidence favorable to the defense or to present all evidence in their possession favorable to the accused. The Grand Jury is not an adversarial proceeding and the People do not have the same obligation of disclosure at the Grand Jury stage as they have at the trial stage."
The judge rejected the contention that the grand jury proceeding was flawed, and then turned his attention to whether police and prosecutors exhibited bias and pervasive bad deeds to warrant a dismissal.
Burke found that "there is no basis for the defendant's claim of prosecutorial or law enforcement misconduct in the proceedings." Not only will he reject the dismissal bid, but he is turning down Brafman's call for an evidentiary hearing to examine the issue. "The defendant may explore any issues of witness credibility at a trial should such witnesses testify," added the judge.
The next hearing is March 7. The next phase of pretrial proceedings could have prosecutors and the defense warring over the potential for trial testimony from other women who have publicly accused Weinstein of misconduct.
After Thursday's hearing, Brafman said, "We are obviously disappointed by the court's decision to deny our motion to dismiss the indictment. Judge Burke has, however, ruled and we must accept his ruling. Nothing in the court's ruling, however, removes the flawed theory of this case that we intend to vigorously defend at trial, where we are confident that Mr. Weinstein will be completely exonerated."