Harvey Weinstein will not be able to delay his criminal trial in New York due to the new charges of rape and sexual battery in Los Angeles, a trial judge ruled on Tuesday.
Justice James Burke denied a request from Weinstein’s defense for a “cooling off period” before the court began jury selection due to the L.A. district attorney’s office four sexual assault charges against Weinstein, which were announced on Monday.
The pre-screening process for jury selection was scheduled for Tuesday, but before potential jurors even stepped into the courtroom, Arthur Aidala — one of Weinstein’s attorneys — brought out copies of the New York Daily News, New York Post and the New York Times to argue that it would be impossible for the court to select a fair and impartial jury given the publication of the L.A. charges.
“It is the talk of the town right this moment,” Aidala said. “I don’t think, using common sense, it is possible today or this week for us to pick a fair and impartial jury.”
“Any judge’s job is just to make sure whoever the defendant is here — sympathetic, not sympathetic, charged with whatever crimes — has the same rights and the same protections that our forefathers fought for,” he added. “I know you’re a fair judge, I know you want to give Mr. Weinstein a fair jury.”
Burke denied his request.
“The jury knows and will know and will be instructed … that being arrested or charged with a crime is, in and of itself, meaningless,” the judge said.
Aidala then asked if the defense could add a question to the jurors’ questionnaire asking if they knew of the charges in L.A., which Burke also rejected. The judge did, however, say that the defense could write out additional instructions to give potential jurors and submit for review.
Burke also denied the prosecution’s request to remand Weinstein because of the charges in L.A. and kept the bail conditions the same, but not without a stern warning. Moments earlier, Weinstein had been caught using his cellphone in the courtroom — and the defense was thoroughly reprimanded by Burke for not managing their client’s behavior.
“Mr. Aidala, this is on you if he blows it, especially in regards to his cellphone,” Burke said, noting that he had instructed the attorney to take Weinstein’s phones away from him after the ex-mogul had been caught violating the order multiple times. “I am pointing my finger at you.”
And turning to Weinstein, Burke said, “I could not implore you more to not answer the following question: Is this really how you want to end up in jail by violating this order, by texting?”
Later that morning, following a brief break, potential jurors were called into the courtroom. A copy of the questionnaire form given to them was also made public on Tuesday morning. Some of the questions include, “Have you, a family member or a close friend ever been the victim of physical or sexual abuse, either as a child or adult?” and “Have you, a family member or a close friend ever been the victim of domestic violence?”
The form also included questions about the media coverage of the Weinstein case and asked if the potential jurors could “assure all parties that [they] will determine this case based only on the evidence [they] will hear in Court,” “avoid all media coverage not look on the internet for this case for any purpose,” and asked whether they had “seen, read, or heard about [Weinstein], this case, and/or its proceedings in newspapers, the internet, on television, on radio, or in a magazine.”