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Harvey Weinstein faces accuser as judge orders retrial

NEW YORK: Disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein faced one of his accusers in New York court Wednesday as he was told he would be retried for rape and sexual assault convictions that were overturned in the state.

His 2020 conviction for raping ex-actress Jessica Mann, who was in the front row of the courtroom's public gallery and mere feet from Weinstein, was overturned by New York's highest court last week.

Weinstein was visibly frail as he was wheeled into the Manhattan courtroom flanked by his lawyers, smiling and waving at supporters as he was pushed in a wheelchair past the public gallery.

Weinstein, who has barely been pictured in public for years, was flanked by two armed court officers as he sat at the defendant's table wearing a dark suit, his hair thin.

"We believe in this case... to that end (accuser) Jessica Mann is in court today," said prosecutor Nicole Blumberg. "She is committed to seeing justice served once again.

"We have every belief that the defendant will be convicted again at trial."

But Weinstein's lawyer Arthur Aidala insisted "he was acquitted of the most serious counts," accusing the prosecutor in the original New York trial of perjuring herself.

Weinstein's team had sought bail pending any retrial, but Judge Curtis Farber rejected that, remanding him pending a retrial which he set for after Labor Day on September 4.

"His life is on the line," Aidala said.

The next hearing in the case will be May 29 to handle discovery issues, Farber said, adding that "we anticipate a trial schedule some date after Labor Day."

Outside court, Aidala said authorities should spend more time pursuing subway criminals and student protesters at Columbia University.

Weinstein "hasn't had any fights or altercations" in prison, Aidala added.

"(But) he was used to drinking champagne and eating caviar – now he's buying chips in the commissary," he said.

Weinstein was convicted in New York in 2020 of the rape and sexual assault of ex-actress Mann in 2013, and of forcibly performing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haley in 2006.

He was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Last week New York's highest court ruled the trial judge erred in admitting the testimony of women who were allegedly abused by Weinstein but who were not named in the charges brought against him.

Gloria Allred, a victims' rights lawyer for Haley, said her client "has not yet taken a decision about whether she will agree to testify in a retrial."

"The vacating of the conviction was re-traumatizing for her... She's still thinking about it," Allred said outside court.

Weinstein would have likely remained in custody anyways because of a conviction for rape in California for which he received a sentence of 16 years.

The once-untouchable Hollywood heavyweight has suffered from a raft of health issues while in prison and has spent time in a secure hospital unit.

Bombshell allegations broke against the Oscar-winning producer in 2017, launching the #MeToo movement, a watershed moment for women fighting sexual misconduct.

The decision to quash the New York convictions rested on prosecutors allowing witnesses to testify despite not being part of the charges – an exception to the normal rules surrounding evidence.

Lawyers said Weinstein's Los Angeles conviction was unlikely to be affected by the New York reversal.

But Weinstein's legal team has indicated it now intends to appeal the California conviction.

"If there's even a whiff he could get bail in California (pending an appeal) he should get it here," Aidala said outside court "This case is so diminished."

A civil trial awarded US$17 million to dozens of other women who had accused the former movie magnate of abuse.

Weinstein and his brother Bob co-founded Miramax Films, a distribution company sold to Disney in 1993.

Their hits included 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar.--AFP

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