Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein denies sexual assault charges in LA courtroom

WASHINGTON: Disgraced Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, who recently made his first court appearance in Los Angeles on Wednesday, pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of rape and sexual assault.

According to Variety, in the courtroom, Weinstein appeared in a wheelchair, with his hands shackled to the armrests, while wearing a rumpled dark brown jumpsuit.

He spoke only once during the brief hearing after Judge Sergio Tapia wished him “good luck.” Replying to it, Weinstein said, “Thank you very much.”

On Tuesday, the producer was extradited from New York and is currently being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.

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His attorney, Mark Werksman, asked for a medical evaluation during the hearing. He also said he would file a demurrer, challenging three of the 11 counts on statute of limitations grounds.

The three counts involve rape and sexual assault allegations dating from 2004-05, and a sexual battery charge from 2010.

Outside court, Werksman said the charges should be thrown out because they are too old to prosecute, and he added that “they are not corroborated by any scientific evidence.”

Speaking on the subject, Werksman said, “He absolutely, unequivocally and categorically denies the allegations in this case. We are confident that if we can have a fair trial, Mr Weinstein will be acquitted.”

Prosecutors have said they are ready to proceed to trial within 120 days, though pre-trial motions appear likely to extend that timetable.

In February 2020, Weinstein was convicted in New York of rape and sexual assault and later sentenced to 23 years in prison. His attorneys have appealed that conviction, arguing that the judge made a series of faulty rulings that denied him a fair trial.

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Weinstein faces allegations from five women dating from 2004 to 2013 in the Los Angeles case. He faces a theoretical maximum of 140 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

In the case, a previously sealed indictment has been announced by the Los Angeles prosecutors, though the existence of the indictment was already known due to legal wrangling in New York.

The Los Angeles trial has already been delayed repeatedly due to the COVID slowdown in the court system. The courts have now resumed holding criminal trials, though there remains a significant backlog of cases.

Weinstein’s attorneys had been fighting the extradition since April, arguing that prosecutors had failed to submit the proper paperwork and that Weinstein needed treatment at the Wende Correctional Facility, near Buffalo, N.Y., for eye ailments to keep from going blind.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office have assured that Weinstein can get adequate medical care while being held at the Twin Towers facility.

Assuming the New York conviction is not overturned, as per Variety, Weinstein would be sent back to New York to serve the balance of his sentence following the Los Angeles trial.