NEW YORK (AFP) - Harvey Weinstein’s defence lawyer on Friday (Aug 3) demanded that a New York court dismiss the sex crimes charges against him, explosively disclosing “warm” emails between the disgraced Hollywood tycoon and his alleged rape victim, in which she said “I love you.”
Ben Brafman, one of America’s most celebrated defence attorneys who helped former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn escape criminal prosecution for alleged sexual assault in 2011, called for the entire indictment against Weinstein to be dismissed, based on the emails and a barrage of technicalities.
The 66-year-old former Tinseltown titan is out on bail and has pleaded not guilty to six counts allegedly committed against three women in 2004, 2006 and 2013. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept 20.
His arrest and arraignments have led #MeToo campaigners to hope that the twice-married father of five – whom nearly 100 women have publicly accused of sexual misconduct – will be put on trial, convicted and sent to prison.
But Brafman’s filing demanded that the indictment “be dismissed at the pre-trial stage,” saying that the district attorney’s failure to present the emails had tainted the grand jury’s indictment process.
Messages sent from weeks to four years after the alleged 2013 rape showed that Weinstein and the woman were in a “long-term, consensual, intimate relationship” that never once referred to an assault, Brafman claimed.
The lawyer described the dozens of messages as “warm, complimentary and solicitous” and as reflecting “the true nature of this consensual intimate friendship, which never at any time included a forcible rape”.
“Hope you are well and call me anytime, always good to hear your voice,” she allegedly wrote to him in August 2013, five months after the claimed assault.
In January 2014, the defence quoted her as writing: “Your (sic) the one who makes it look good with your smile and beautiful eyes!!”
“There is no one else I would enjoy catching up with that understands me quite like you,” she purportedly wrote to Weinstein in July 2014.
In another exchange, she wrote to say: “Just had u cross my mind and thought u would send a hello.”
When Weinstein apparently replied: “Love to cross your mind it’s my favourite exercise,” she answered: “Lol that made me laugh so hard.” .
“I love you, always do. But I hate feeling like a booty call. :),” she apparently emailed Weinstein in February 2017.
Messages appeared to show her arranging to meet up with Weinstein, looking forward to introducing him to her mother, making contact when she needed help securing a job and seeking comfort when her father was ill, Brafman said.
The defence accused Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance of acting in haste, caving under “unprecedented” pressure to indict Weinstein, having been criticized for failing to prosecute him for an alleged groping incident in 2015.
Vance’s office declined to comment Friday.
Brafman also sought to undermine the allegation of forced oral sex 14 years ago, saying that the alleged victim in that instance does not remember when it happened, only “sometime” between June and September of that year.
“Mr Weinstein categorically denies that he had non-consensual sex with any person, and specifically the three accusers in the pending indictment,” he wrote in the 159-page filing, that included 30 exhibits of emails.
He sought the dismissal citing failure to provide the emails to the grand jury, prosecutors not giving “adequate” notice about more serious charges filed last month, not saying exactly when the alleged 2004 assault took place, not prosecuting within statute of limitations, not providing evidence about the element of “force” and what he summed up as “other grand jury deficiencies.”
Weinstein is facing two counts of predatory sexual assault and two counts of criminal sexual act, as well as rape in the first and third degree.
He risks being jailed for life if put on trial and convicted of the most serious charge against him, predatory sexual assault.
His career imploded in October in a blaze of accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse from dozens of women that triggered a major reckoning about harassment in the workplace and the #MeToo movement.