Harvey Weinstein’s legal team have asked for his trial to be moved away from Manhattan
The movie mogul is on trial in New York on five counts pertaining to sexual assault, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape and one count of criminal sex act, but his defence team have produced an 87-page motion asking the judge to change the location to avoid the “carnival-like atmosphere” outside the court “that no prospective juror can avoid”.
Arthur Aidala, one of Weinstein’s attorneys, wrote in the motion: “Reporters and camera crews fill the entrance to the courthouse and line the hallways leading into the courtroom, celebrity press conferences denouncing the defendant occur on the courthouse steps, and protests and demonstrations are audible inside the courtroom during proceedings.”
It comes just a week after Weinstein’s request to have his trial judge removed was rejected
During proceedings on January 7th, Weinstein was told several times by Judge James Burke to stop using his phone, and threatened him with jail time if he didn’t put the gadget down.
On January 8th, Weinstein’s legal team asked the judge to recuse himself over his remarks, but on January 9th the defence team had their request rejected.
Burke told the court: “All I meant to do was scare him enough for him to discontinue use of his phones. I never actually meant that I was going to put your client in jail for life.”
The judge insisted that Weinstein “was noncompliant and defiant and challenging to the court officers when asked to put away his phones”, but reiterated multiple times that he has not made up his mind on the charges against the producer.
He added: “I certainly don’t know what the evidence is likely to be or how it’s likely to be received by the jury. Ironically, I was concerned that Mr. Weinstein was getting better treatment and more chances than other defendants.”
In Burke’s original comments, he suggested he would place Weinstein behind bars “for the rest of [his] life” over the use of his phone within the courtroom
He said: “Mr. Weinstein, I could not implore you more to not answer the following question: is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of an order? Is it?”
Weinstein’s team branded the comments “prejudicial and inflammatory” and argued the rebuke reflected the “court’s animus” toward their client.
A letter submitted by the lawyers said: “These comments reflect the Court’s animus towards the Defendant and have created a situation in which the Court’s ‘impartiality might reasonably by questioned,’ in violation of New York State’s Rules of Judicial Conduct.
“Either the Court was suggesting that an appropriate sanction for use of a cell phone in court was life in prison, or the Court was suggesting that Mr. Weinstein is guilty, would surely be convicted, and that the Court already knew that it intended to sentence him to life in prison.”
Weinstein has denied all allegations against him.