Harvey Weinstein lawyers argue he was denied fair trial in appeal of LA rape conviction

Harvey Weinstein's lawyers argue he didn't get a fair trial in Los Angeles when he was convicted of rape and sexual assault in 2022

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Harvey Weinstein's lawyers argue in an appeal that he did not get a fair trial when he was convicted of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles in 2022 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The brief filed Friday with California's Second District Court of Appeal comes six weeks after his similar landmark #MeToo conviction and 23-year prison sentence in New York were overturned by the state's highest court.

The California appeal argues the trial judge wrongly excluded evidence that the Italian model and actor he was convicted of raping had a sexual relationship with the director of a film festival that had brought both Weinstein and the woman to Los Angeles at the time of the alleged attack.

Weinstein's lawyers argued that the judge deprived him of "his constitutional rights to present a defense and led to a miscarriage of justice.”

The attorneys say the judge was wrong to allow jurors to know about Weinstein's previous, now-vacated conviction in New York, and that the jury was unfairly prejudiced by testimony from women about alleged assaults Weinstein was not charged with. Similar testimony led to his overturned conviction in New York, where the 72-year-old is being held as Manhattan prosecutors plan to retry him.

“The introduction of this excessive, cumulative, and remote evidence of prior ‘sexual assaults’ simply signaled to the jury that the Defendant was a bad man who should be convicted of something irrespective of whether the prosecution proved its case,” the filing said.

At his California trial, Weinstein was charged with sexually assaulting four women, but a jury convicted him of an attack on just one, Evgeniya Chernyshova, who testified that Weinstein appeared uninvited at her hotel room during the LA Italia Film Festival in 2013.

Weinstein's lawyers argue that Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench was wrong to prevent his defense from showing the jury Facebook messages that showed Chernyshova and the festival's founder, Pascal Vicedomini, had a sexual relationship. The messages would have shown that both were perjuring themselves when they testified that they were only friends and colleagues, the brief argues. And it would have bolstered defense arguments that the woman was not even in her hotel room but was with Vicedomini at the time of the alleged attack.

The arguments are similar to those made by Weinstein’s attorneys in a motion for a new trial that Lench rejected before his sentencing.

Weinstein has since hired appellate attorneys including Jennifer Bonjean, a Chicago-based lawyer whose appeal in Bill Cosby's sexual assault case got his conviction in Pennsylvania permanently thrown out.

Chernyshova went only by Jane Doe 1 during the trial. The Associated Press doesn't typically name people who say they've been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly, as Chernyshova did after the trial. She consented via her lawyer to the AP using her name.

“Weinstein's appeal makes the same tired arguments that he previously made multiple times, without success, to the trial court," Chernyshova's attorney, David Ring, said in an email Friday. "We are of the strong opinion that the trial court vetted the evidence appropriately and made all the correct decisions in its evidentiary rulings. We are confident that Weinstein’s appeal will be denied and he will spend many years in prison.”

The defense appeals brief says three of the jurors signed affidavits saying they now regretted signing on to a unanimous guilty verdict.

The filing says the “jurors confirmed that they did not believe the pair were romantically linked and explained that if they had access to such evidence it would have changed their calculus of whether any rape occurred.”

And Weinstein's attorneys argue that a lawsuit filed by Chernyshova shortly after the verdict demonstrates that they should have been allowed to question whether she had financial motives in the state's outcome.

Weinstein's defense lawyers first filed a notice of appeal in April 2023 and asked for several extensions before filing Friday's brief. The prosecution has until Aug. 6 to file its response.