3:02pm PT by Eriq Gardner
NYC Prosecutors Seek New Indictment Against Harvey Weinstein
Just weeks before Harvey Weinstein's sex-abuse trial is set to be begin, New York City prosecutors are going back to a grand jury for a superseding indictment. The purpose, as revealed in new court filings, is so that prosecutors can call an additional witness — one they present as "significant."
The witness, according to press reports, is Annabella Sciorra, an actress once nominated for an Emmy for her role on The Sopranos. She alleges Weinstein raped her in 1993.
On Aug. 8, New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke rejected Weinstein's latest motion for dismissal. The embattled movie mogul, facing various charges related to the alleged assault of two other women, challenged the multiplicity of charges against him as well as argued defects in the temporal elements of the charges. While Weinstein's position didn't sway Burke, the defendant at least scored the striking of an additional complainant — likely Sciorra — from a Bill of Particulars.
The judge rules that this complainant would violate Weinstein's right to be tried on charges presented to the Grand Jury.
Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, an assistant D.A. in New York City, then wrote to the judge on Tuesday how the decision would preclude testimony from this individual.
"Although we disagree with the decision we respect the Court's opinion and wish to cure any deficiency in the charges that were given to the Grand Jury," wrote Illuzzi-Orbon. "We are sure that you appreciate that witness in question did not come forward until the Grand Jury presentation was concluded, so the People could not have put this testimony before the Grand Jury at the time of indictment."
Thus, the new plan by the prosecutors is to return to the grand jury.
Illuzzi-Orbon's letter states an intention to be ready for a Sept. 9 trial, although that could be optimistic as Weinstein appears ready to fight the latest development as an "eleventh hour maneuver" to sneak in a witness with an allegation covering activity dating back 25 years.
While prosecutors struggle to call Sciorra as a witness at trial, Illuzzi-Orbon's letter reveals quite significantly for the first time that Judge Burke has allowed prosecutors to call others to the witness stand. The introduction of "prior bad act" witnesses was a turning point in the retrial of Bill Cosby and could help prosecutors show a pattern in Weinsten's conduct.