Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

Harvey Weinstein has been indicted in California on sexual assault charges, one of his lawyers said on Monday, as the former film producer appeared in a New York court proceeding over whether to extradite him.

The 69-year-old Weinstein appeared by video from the Wende correctional facility, near Buffalo, before a judge on the Erie county court.

Weinstein has been appealing his February 2020 conviction in Manhattan and 23-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi, a former production assistant, and raping Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actor.

California’s criminal case against Weinstein covers alleged attacks on five women from 2004 to 2013 in the Los Angeles area, and was announced last year.

It includes four counts of forcible rape, four counts of forcible oral copulation, two counts of sexual battery by restraint, and one count of sexual penetration by use of force.

The new indictment, returned by a grand jury on 15 March, contains the same 11 counts involving the same five unnamed women as the previous criminal complaint against Weinstein, according to a person with direct knowledge who spoke on condition of anonymity because the indictment remains sealed.

The move by prosecutors means skipping a public preliminary hearing on the evidence against Weinstein, and putting him on a fast track to trial.

Weinstein has denied having nonconsensual sex with anyone.

Norman Effman, a public defender representing Weinstein, asked that his client be arraigned on the indictment virtually in New York rather than extradited so he could get necessary medical treatment, including scheduled eye and dental surgery.

Effman said Weinstein, a diabetic, is “almost technically blind at this point”, and also suffers from cardiac and back problems.

“We’re not trying to avoid what is going to happen in California,” Effman said. “We believe there is not only a defense to these charges, but a very good defense to these charges,” which would result in an acquittal.

The Los Angeles county district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Weinstein’s indictment was reported earlier by the Los Angeles Times.

Another hearing is scheduled for 30 April.

The conviction of Weinstein was seen as a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment by men, including many like Weinstein who once held powerful jobs and influence.

If convicted in California, Weinstein could spend the rest of his life in prison even if his New York conviction were overturned.

“These are stale, unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, uncredible allegations that arose during the hysteria of the #MeToo movement,” Weinstein’s criminal defense lawyer Mark Werksman said in a statement. “We’re confident that Mr Weinstein will be acquitted because there’s no credible evidence against him. He’s innocent.“

The Los Angeles district attorney first sought Weinstein’s extradition last July, but it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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