Updated Apr 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Harvey Weinstein's rape conviction overturned by New York appeals court

Harvey Weinstein dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie is seen with a serious face while seated in court. Nothing is visible in the background.

Former film producer Harvey Weinstein appears in court at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles in 2022. Photo: Etienne Laurent/Getty Images

A New York appeals court overturned Harvey Weinstein's 2020 felony sex crime convictions on Thursday and ordered a new trial.

Why it matters: The allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Weinstein helped reignite the global #MeToo movement.

  • The disgraced Hollywood producer, who is 72, was separately sentenced to 16 years in prison in a separate rape case in Los Angeles, which isn't affected by this decision. He will reportedly be transferred to a California prison.
  • Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg, who is involved in the hush-money trial against former President Trump, will decide whether to seek a retrial of Weinstein.

Driving the news: In the appeal, Weinstein's legal team argued that he was judged on "irrelevant, prejudicial and untested allegations of prior bad acts," per the court order.

  • "The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial," the court said.

Flashback: A Manhattan jury in 2020 found Weinstein guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree.

  • He didn't testify and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
  • In L.A., he was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of rape, forced oral copulation and one other count of sexual misconduct.

Between the lines: The case against Weinstein has been fragile "since the day it was filed," reported the New York Times' Jodi Kantor, who along with Megan Twohey broke the sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein in 2017.

  • While there is overwhelming evidence of his sexual misconduct, Manhattan prosecutors brought the criminal case based on the accounts of two women.
  • Other alleged survivors of Weinstein were unable to take the stand for reasons including having experienced sexual harassment, which is a civil violation, or falling beyond the statute of limitations.

Additional alleged survivors were called to the stand as so-called Molineux witnesses, to "establish a pattern of predation," Kantor reported.

  • The conviction should only be based on what the defendant is being charged with, which didn't include their testimonies, the court said in its majority opinion.
  • The defense questioned the credibility of complaints against Weinstein, the opinion said, because the alleged survivors admitted to having had consensual sex with Weinstein in some instances.

What they're saying: "Victims of sexual assault just don't get justice," Katherine Kendall, an actress and one of Weinstein's accusers, said per the NYT.

  • "I'm completely let down by the justice system right now. I'm sort of flabbergasted."
  • The court's decision is unfair to survivors, said Ashley Judd, the first actress who came forward with allegations. "We still live in our truth," she said, per the NYT. "And we know what happened."

The other side: "Fundamental misunderstandings of sexual violence perpetrated by men known to, and with significant power over, the women they victimize are on full display in the majority opinion," the dissenting opinion said.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details.

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