Richard Kaplan Quoted in Fox News Report: Harvey Weinstein Rape Conviction Overturned: #MeToo Movement Will Need to ‘Adjust’ Strategies, Expert Says

Lauryn Overhultz

6–7 minutes

Harvey Weinstein's rape conviction being overturned means #MeToo prosecutors will need to "adjust" their strategies in future cases.

Weinstein's 2020 conviction was overturned by a New York appeals court Thursday, granting his legal team's request for a new trial.

"Trial courts will be more cautious with their evidentiary rulings where a defendant’s character or evidence of past misdeeds are presented," criminal defense attorney Michael Rene Huff told Fox News Digital. "While, generally, findings of fact are within the sound discretion of the trial court, judges will exercise greater scrutiny as to their evidentiary rulings in these cases. The #MeToo movement will need to adjust their prosecutorial strategies accordingly."

Prosecutors likely will be "more hesitant" to use "prior bad acts" witnesses in future cases, former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani explained to Fox News Digital.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN RAPE CONVICTION OVERTURNED BY NY APPEALS COURT

Harvey Weinstein's 2020 conviction was overturned by an appeals court Thursday. (Getty Images)

"Prosecutors like prior bad acts evidence in sexual assault cases," Rahmani said. "Jurors may not believe the testimony of one victim in a he said-she said situation, but it’s hard for them to reject the testimony of multiple victims who tell the same story."

Oleg Nekritin, a defense attorney at the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot, told Fox News Digital the latest ruling won't affect Me Too cases much.

"Weinstein achieved an undeniable legal victory before the Court of Appeals," he said. "However, its impact on past or future ‘MeToo’ cases will be minimal, as the court's decision was limited to the specific facts of this case."

A New York appeals court overturned Weinstein’s 2020 rape and forcible sex act conviction. He was originally found guilty of forcing oral sex on TV and film production assistant Mimi Haley in 2006 and third-degree rape of hairstylist Jessica Mann in 2013.

He was acquitted of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault from actor Annabella Sciorra’s allegations of rape in the 1990s. Weinstein has denied ever engaging in non-consensual sex.

In a 4-3 decision, the appeals court found Weinstein's trial judge allowed prosecutors to call women who said Weinstein had assaulted them to testify, even though their accusations did not specifically relate to the entertainment mogul's charges. This move created an unfair trial for Weinstein, the four judges concluded.

Harvey Weinstein's lawyers have maintained he did not receive a fair trial in New York. (Richard Drew)

"Justice was served. I believe this decision is larger than Harvey Weinstein," Donna Rotunno, Weinstein's defense lawyer, told Fox News in a statement. "Courts cannot operate on emotion and lack of due process. The world is off balance, and when the justice system does not work, nothing does. This decision restores faith in the foundation of our system."

Weinstein's conviction being overturned doesn't mean he is "actually innocent," Rahmani noted.

"He’ll get prosecuted again and will be convicted again, this time without using the testimony regarding the uncharged sexual assaults," the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers told Fox News Digital. "He’ll probably get the same sentence when he is convicted again. The judge won’t punish him for exercising his appeal rights.

"And, in the meantime, Weinstein will be serving a 16-year sentence in California state prison. Nor will the decision have any precedential impact on the California or other Me Too cases. It was a slim majority, and New York law doesn’t control California and other states."

Mimi Haley testified Harvey Weinstein forced oral sex on her when she was a production assistant in 2006. (Getty Images)

Despite the trials being in different states, Weinstein's lawyers have raised the same issues regarding the producer's California conviction.

"While the trials were in different jurisdictions, the same issue of admitting prior bad acts occurred in the California case," Richard Kaplan, partner of Kaplan Marino, told Fox News Digital. "It is likely his appellate team will craft the same arguments that prevailed in New York."

Weinstein's legal team hinted at the same argument following Thursday's overturned conviction.

"We faced the same fundamental unfairness in the Los Angeles case, where the judge let the jury hear about four uncharged allegations of sexual assault," Mark Werksman, Weinstein's defense attorney for the California case, told the Los Angeles Times.

"Harvey was subjected to a firehose of uncharged and incredible allegations which destroyed his right to a fair trial on the charges in the indictment. The case here should be reversed for the same reasons the New York case was reversed."

After Weinstein's sentencing in New York in 2020, he was extradited to California in July 2021 to face sexual assault allegations made by four women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013.

In December 2022, he was found guilty of rape, forced oral copulation and another sexual misconduct count involving a woman known as Jane Doe 1. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in February 2023. Weinstein's legal team has vowed to appeal that conviction as well.

"Consequently, Weinstein’s California appeal may have legs if the California appellate court rules that the trial court allowed inadmissible evidence regarding Weinstein’s character," Huff told Fox News Digital.

Weinstein also faces charges in London for two alleged offenses in 1996.

Following Harvey Weinstein's New York conviction, the entertainment mogul was extradited to California, where he was convicted on more sexual assault charges. (Reuters)

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