Harvey Weinstein may officially be a convicted rapist, but his trial’s legacy, and the litigation over his fate, is far from settled.
On Monday, a Manhattan jury convicted Weinstein of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and third-degree rape. Though Weinstein escaped the most serious charges, which could have landed him behind bars for life, the criminal sexual act charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
Manhattan’s district attorney is claiming victory in the case, which used an innovative legal strategy to illustrate Weinstein’s history of abuse, but the disgraced movie mogul still has to contend with a bevy of civil and criminal cases.
The fallout from his conviction could not only affect his own future, but those of other famous men accused of sexual misconduct — or who perhaps shielded the accused from consequences.
The other women
In Weinstein’s trial, prosecutors used a strategy that’s already gotten results in the post-#MeToo era: having other accusers take the stand to paint a famous man as a serial sexual predator.
In 2018, when Bill Cosby was on trial in 2018 for sexually assaulting one woman, prosecutors had five more take the stand to testify against him. The Weinstein prosecutors followed that model; though the charges against Weinstein were largely linked to encounters with just two women, four others also testified that the former Hollywood power broker had sexually assaulted them.
Given that the strategy has worked in such high-profile cases, other prosecutors may try to emulate it. But not every state is so amenable to the idea of calling witnesses who can speak to a defendant’s so-called history of “bad acts.” In New York, for example, prosecutors’ ability is relatively restricted.
“It’s very powerful evidence, no doubt about it,” defense attorney Matthew Galluzzo, a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor, told the Associated Press before the Weinstein verdict. “That’s why prosecutors want it.”
The court battles aren’t over
On the first day of Weinstein’s criminal trial in New York, prosecutors on the other side of the country announced that they’d like to take a crack at the fallen producer: The Los Angeles County district attorney charged Weinstein with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in two separate incidents, which allegedly took place over the course of just two days in February 2013.
Despite Weinstein’s conviction, prosecutors in the Golden State are moving forward. “We are definitely proceeding,” one told New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow Monday.
In total, Weinstein is now facing four felony sex crimes in California. If he’s convicted as charged, he could spend up to 28 years in state prison.
Weinstein is also facing several civil lawsuits. Although those types of cases are typically put on hold while criminal proceedings unfold, the Weinstein Company has moved forward with a reported multimillion-dollar settlement involving Weinstein’s accusers. That settlement is not yet finalized, Reuters reported earlier this month.
Weinstein’s lawyers could seek to frame his conviction as irrelevant to any separate allegations of misconduct. But, at least in New York state, a plaintiff can try to bring it up in a civil lawsuit. (At least one civil suit against Weinstein is unfolding in New York.)
“Weinstein’s convictions would likely feature front and center in a complaint as relevant to the plaintiff’s claims, despite the possible lack of direct connection,” Heidi Reavis, managing partner of Reavis Page Jump LLP, a law firm that handles workplace sexual harassment claims, wrote in an email.