A New Twist in the Harvey Weinstein Story

It has been a year and a half since the Harvey Weinstein story became public.

It sparked a global movement, redrew boundaries and reshaped thresholds in homes, workplaces and everywhere in between.

Both by his own admission, and in the court of public opinion, the man at the centre of that sorry tale seemed guilty of some appalling behaviour.

But as the world perhaps moves on a bit and the harsh glare of scrutiny and endless headlines fades, Harvey Weinstein has quietly mounted an increasingly successful legal defence for himself.

Harvey Weinstein, Georgina Chapman © Joe Alvarez

Flanked by teams of powerful lawyers, fanning out across civil and criminal courts all over America, Weinstein has notched up a series of small victories that might make a big difference.

The class action civil lawsuit against him in New York has already been dramatically reduced in size. There are now just three named women left on the case, and although the judge will allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to accuse Weinstein of sex trafficking, the charges levelled at his companies and executives (and therefore access to their funds) have been dismissed.

Harvey Weinstein at the Elle Style Awards © Joe Alvarez

Harvey Weinstein © Joe Alvarez

And if Weinstein himself declares bankruptcy, even if the judge in this civil lawsuit rules against him, there will be precious little compensation available for his alleged victims.

Separately, Weinstein’s conviction at criminal trial in New York is in no way assured. He has consistently denied any and all non-consensual sexual contact, and it is up to the prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime.

In sexual assault cases, where the only witnesses are often the alleged perpetrator and victim, this is notoriously hard to do.

There are other problems for the prosecutors too.

The judge has already thrown out one of the charges against Weinstein after it was revealed that the lead detective in the case failed to tell prosecutors about a witness whose testimony cast doubt on one of his accusers.

There is also the issue of timing.

A judge recently pushed a slated 3 June start date back to September.

This gives Weinstein’s new all-star legal team even more time to simultaneously prepare and hope for the spotlight to fade further.

And then there’s the question of whether the judge will allow women who aren’t named in the criminal case to testify for the prosecution as evidence a pattern of behaviour, or “prior bad acts”. In a recent ruling, Justice James Burke said that any discussion about the admission of these witnesses, known as “molineux” witnesses, should be kept a secret from the public.

He mentioned Weinstein’s celebrity and suggested that intense interest could compromise a fair trial.

So the media and the public may not know for months if other accusers will appear in court.

This again will have a dampening effect on the wave of revulsion that crashed on Weinstein’s head in the aftermath of the first accusations against him.

Harvey Weinstein, Georgina Chapman © Joe Alvarez

If Weinstein isn’t convicted of anything, for some that will be a travesty of justice and an example of the deficiencies of the legal system that stacks the cards against alleged victims.

But for others, it will be representative of the justice system working exactly as it should.

Weinstein’s own lawyers have argued that it is not criminal to behave badly.

In court they will argue that Weinstein simply took advantage of a seedy casting couch culture that he did not invent and is not illegal.

They will probably also argue, although this should not matter, that he had consensual ongoing relationships with a number of his accusers.

New York state prosecutors will know all of this as they prepare for battle.

The Weinstein story, shocking as it was, may take another twist before it is over.

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Harvey Weinstein at the Elle Style Awards © Joe Alvarez

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