Just hours after Harvey Weinstein left the courthouse for the first day of his New York criminal trial, prosecutors on the other side of the country dropped a dramatic announcement of new sexual assault charges against the ex-mogul.
The potential impact of the L.A. case on the current trial has already been brought up in the courtroom. According to experts who spoke to TheWrap, a major impact could be jury selection for the New York trial.
“You’re going to have to hope the jurors tell you the truth, when they’re getting questioned, as to whether or not they heard about [the new charges],” Mark Geragos, an L.A.-based criminal defense attorney, told The Wrap on Monday. “This is not the prosecutor’s slamdunk case — everybody makes it out to be — although certainly the timing of the L.A. D.A. did not help [Weinstein’s] cause.”
In addition, Lara Yeretsian, an L.A. criminal defense attorney, said the separate cases could work to bolster one another.
“The L.A. charges legitimize the New York case, making jurors think, ‘It’s not just here, so there must be something,'” Yeretsian told TheWrap via email. “If he’s convicted in New York, that strengthens the L.A. prosecutor’s case.”
As for the scheduling of the two separate cases, Weinstein’s attorney Donna Rotunno said in court on Tuesday morning that the L.A. D.A.’s office “assured” them that they were not going to arrest Weinstein until after the New York trial was over. A spokesperson for the L.A. D.A.’s office told The Wrap that an arraignment date has not been set, but “it’s expected that NY will handle their matters first before we do” and that an arraignment would happen after the trial is finished.
If Weinstein were to be convicted in the New York trial — which could mean a life in prison, if he’s convicted of the most serious charge — it wouldn’t necessarily make L.A.’s case moot.
“At that point, L.A. would have [a few] options: They could either proceed, they could wait for sentencing, or after he’s sentenced, they could do what’s called a ‘writ’ to try to bring him to California custody,” Geragos said.
But the timing of the L.A. district attorney’s announcement has raised a few eyebrows — especially from Weinstein’s defense. “I cannot think of one time, of one case, where the day of jury selection, this type of prejudice is being cast against a criminal defendant,” Arthur Aidala, one of Weinstein’s attorneys, said on Tuesday morning in court. “It’s very hard to believe that that was an absolute coincidence.”
Geragos — whose clients have included Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr. — also agreed. “It’s quite the coincidence,” he said. “L.A. has been investigating this for over two years, so if that’s  days in which to file this case, what are the odds … that they would pick the day that he starts trial in New York?”
But Neama Rahmani, a former U.S. assistant attorney and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said the New York trial wouldn’t be affected by the L.A. charges; if anything, Rahmani said the L.A. prosecutors could actually be at a “disadvantage” since some of the witnesses are expected to testify at both trials.
“This will give Weinstein’s L.A. defense team an opportunity to preview the testimony of the victims and prepare for cross-examination — if Weinstein ever actually stands trial in Los Angeles,” Rahmani said in an email.
Jury selection continues this week for the trial and is expected to last two weeks. Barring any delays, opening statements should begin on January 22.