8:48am PT by Eriq Gardner
New York Appeals Court Won't Unseal Secret Harvey Weinstein Court Hearing
Various news organizations struck out Thursday when a New York appeals court refused to unseal the record of an April 26 court hearing in the criminal case against Harvey Weinstein.
The purpose of the proceeding was to hear arguments over the admissibility of evidence at a trial now scheduled for September. Weinstein is charged with sexually assaulting two women, but prosecutors also wish to bring to the witness stand other accusers for the purpose of demonstrating the movie mogul's alleged history and common modus operandi of exploiting women.
Outraging various media groups, Judge James Burke closed the courtroom as "the only means available to avoid the tainting of the jury pool."
The New York Times and more than a dozen other media companies including CNN and Fox News urged the First Appellate Division in New York to direct Judge Burke to unseal the record of what happened.
In a short order today, the appellate judges bless Burke's decision and note that "allegations of prior uncharged sexual offenses by the defendant — the admissibility of which is disputed — was likely to be prejudicial and inflammatory."
"Further, some or all of the allegations may have been determined to be inadmissible at trial, or may not be offered at trial even if found potentially admissible," continues the appellate ruling. "Contrary to petitioners’ suggestion, the People have represented that some of the information has not yet been made public. Given the worldwide media scrutiny this case has received, the motion court reasonably concluded that the sealing of documents relating to this single pretrial hearing was the only way to prevent tainting the jury pool with such inadmissible, prejudicial information."