Los Angeles, Feb 17 (IANS): A judge ruled on Thursday that no additional victims beyond the one woman, whose testimony was the basis for Harvey Weinstein's conviction, will be able to give victim impact statements at Weinstein's sentencing next week.
The ruling comes amid calls from attorney Gloria Allred to allow more victims to speak at the sentencing, which she says is the "right of a victim."
Allred represented three women in Weinstein's Los Angeles trial, and has argued that all women involved in the case, regardless of the verdict, should be able to speak at the sentencing to let their voice be heard and provide relevant information for the court to consider.
At the Thursday hearing, prosecutors Paul Thompson and Marlene Martinez asked the judge to hear from Allred in court, reports 'Variety'.
Weinstein was found guilty on three counts of rape and sexual assault last December, after a two-month trial in Los Angeles. The three charges on which he was convicted all came from Jane Doe #1, a European model who said Weinstein raped her in 2013 during a film festival in L.A.
The trial ended in a mixed verdict with the jury acquitting Weinstein on one count pertaining to Jane Doe #3, and not reaching a unanimous verdict on three additional charges from Jane Doe #2 and Jane Doe #4. Aside from the four charged victims, four additional victims took the stand during the trial as "prior bad acts" witnesses, in order to establish a pattern of Weinstein's behaviour.
"I'm not going to make this an open forum on Mr. Weinstein's conduct," Judge Lisa B. Lench said on Thursday, re-confirming that only Jane Doe #1 could make a victim impact statement at next week's sentencing.
"I don't think it's appropriate for the court to consider those alleged crimes," Judge Lench said, stating that the other women who testified in the trial are not "germane to the issues" that will be considered at the sentencing. "I heard the trial," she said. "I know the issues."
Weinstein was present at hearing, and was wheeled into the courtroom wearing a prison jumpsuit, which said "LA County Jail XL" on the back. He sat next to his attorneys, Alan Jackson and Mark Werksman. Before the hearing started, Weinstein was laughing with a big smile as he was overheard chatting with his lawyers about football.
Prior to the judge's ruling on Thursday, Allred submitted legal briefs to the court to put the matter on the record, and Weinstein's defence submitted an opposition. Immediately after the hearing on Thursday, Allred told the media that she will be disputing the court's ruling, in hopes of reversing the decision.
"I feel very strongly about victim's rights," Allred said at the courthouse. "I believe that everything that they would say would be relevant to the issue of the sentence that Mr. Weinstein should receive."
"If they are not permitted," Allred continued, "It could result in an unjust sentence. That is our concern - so that the court should be able to hear the entirety of the alleged scope of the defendant's conduct in order to protect the people of California and elsewhere to adequately punish the defendant and to deter such conduct in the future, whether or not there is ever a conviction of a crime."
Weinstein's defence objected on Thursday to allowing more women to provide victim impact statements, arguing that the mere presence of them at the sentencing would quality them as "victims," after jurors failed to reach a verdict pertaining to their allegations presented in the trial.
Werksman said that allowing more women to provide victim impact statements would be "unduly prejudicial" for Weinstein, and that the sentencing should only pertain to his conviction based on Jane Doe #1.
Weinstein's defence also brought up the possibility of some charges being re-tried, stating that allowing women involved with those charges to speak at the sentencing could "taint the jury pool and the public perception" that they are indeed "victims where he is still presumed innocent."
Weinstein will be sentenced on February 23. The former Hollywood mogul is already serving his 23-year sentence in New York after being found guilty in 2020, and the sentencing he faces in L.A. will effectively put him behind bars for life.
Last month, however, Weinstein filed his appeal for his New York conviction, after the highest court in the state agreed to hear his case.
Additionally, Weinstein's L.A. defence team is asking for a new trial, claiming that the jury was improperly instructed during the trial and that evidence and argument was withheld, which could have altered the jury's deliberations. That matter will also be heard next week in court, the same day as Weinstein's sentencing.