Weinstein threatened with jail for using phone in rape trial
Harvey Weinstein has been threatened with jail after a judge caught him using his mobile phone during jury selection for his rape trial in New York.
“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting and violating a court order?” state Judge James Burke asked the 67-year-old defendant.
Visibly angry, the judge told Weinstein not to answer.
Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi urged the Judge Burke to jail the former Hollywood film producer.
She said there is a “grave risk” that Weinstein at some point will realise that the evidence against him is “imposing and overwhelming” and will try to flee.
The judge decided not to jail Weinstein but warned he would not get another chance.
“I’m not looking for apologies; I’m looking for compliance,” Judge Burke said.
Weinstein is facing five charges including rape and sexual assault involving two women, which he denies.
He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge – predatory sexual assault.
Weinstein looked frail as he entered the New York court building using a walking frame, which his lawyers say he needs following back surgery.
He has been released on bail but is required to wear an electronic-tracking device that was visible on his ankle as he exited a sports utility vehicle when he arrived at court on Tuesday.
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades. He denies the allegations, claiming any sexual encounters he had were consensual.
Jury selection at New York‘s Supreme Court began on Tuesday – more than two years since the allegations first came to widespread public attention and gave momentum to the #MeToo movement – with the trial expected to last around two months.
One of Weinstein’s lawyers, Arthur Aidala, asked the judge to delay the trial or at least allow more time for jury selection after he was separately charged in Los Angeles on Monday with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013.
He said: “I cannot think of one time, one case where the day of jury selection this type of prejudice is being cast against a criminal defendant.”
Prosecutors in LA have been reviewing eight cases of alleged sexual assault against Weinstein.
However the judge refused to delay the trial, saying the jury would be instructed that an indictment was not evidence of guilt.
Legal experts have said it would be a challenging process to choose a fair jury following the #MeToo movement and Monday’s charges.
Among the questions prospective jurors are being asked is if they have ever worked in the entertainment industry, and if they have, what position they held and for how many years.
Prosecutors require all 12 jurors to back a conviction, while Weinstein needs just one holdout for a hung jury.
Dozens of women have made allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against Weinstein since the publication of revelations in the New York Times in October 2017.
Rosanna Arquette, who claims Weinstein derailed her career after resisting his advances, said she will attend court to support his alleged victims.