Harvey Weinstein's 2020 Rape Conviction Overturned by New York Court of Appeals

Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction overturned by New York's highest court, a major setback for the #MeToo movement. Prosecutors vow to retry the case, raising questions about the admissibility of prior bad acts testimony in sexual assault trials.

author-image
Emmanuel Abara Benson
Updated On
New Update
Harvey Weinstein's 2020 Rape Conviction Overturned by New York Court  of Appeals

Harvey Weinstein's 2020 Rape Conviction Overturned by New York Court of Appeals

In a major setback for the #MeToo movement, New York's highest court has overturned Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction in a 4-3 ruling.

The New York Court of Appeals found that the trial judge had improperly allowed testimony against Weinstein based on allegations that were not part of the case, prejudicing the ex-movie mogul.

The court concluded that Justice James Burke erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants, which served no material non-propensity purpose and portrayed Weinstein in a highly prejudicial light. The majority opinion stated that "no person accused of illegality may be judged on proof of uncharged crimes that serve only to establish the accused's propensity for criminal behavior."

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office said they will do everything in their power to retry the case, while Weinstein's lawyers argued the judge had stacked the deck against him by allowing testimony about other alleged assaults. Weinstein, who is currently serving a 23-year sentence in New York and a 16-year sentence in Los Angeles, will now face a new trial.

Why this matters: The reversal of Weinstein's conviction is seen as a major setback for the #MeToo movement, following the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal of a Pennsylvania court decision to throw out Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction. The ruling raises questions about the admissibility of "prior bad acts" testimony in sexual assault cases and could have implications for future prosecutions.

The decision has been met with dismay by many of the women whose decision to speak out against Weinstein helped accelerate the #MeToo movement. The dissenting judges accused the ruling majority of "whitewashing the facts" and "perpetuating outdated notions of sexual violence."

Weinstein's legal team celebrated the ruling, with his attorney Arthur Aidala calling it a "victory" that upholds "basic principles" for criminal defendants. However, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office vowed to retry the case, with District Attorney Alvin Bragg stating, "We will continue to pursue justice and fight for survivors of sexual violence."

Key Takeaways

  • NY's highest court overturned Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction in 4-3 ruling.
  • Court found judge improperly allowed testimony on uncharged prior acts.
  • Ruling seen as major setback for #MeToo movement, raises questions on admissibility of "prior bad acts" testimony.
  • Weinstein's lawyers celebrated ruling, Manhattan DA vowed to retry the case.
  • Decision has been met with dismay by many women who spoke out against Weinstein.