By Jonathan Stempel and Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The disgraced Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday asked New York’s highest court to overturn his 2020 rape and sexual assault conviction, saying the Manhattan trial judge succumbed to inertia created by the #MeToo movement.
In a filing with the state Court of Appeals, lawyers for Weinstein accused trial judge James Burke of caving to “the pressure of an influential social movement determined to punish centuries of male misbehavior by setting an example in convicting one man, Harvey Weinstein.”
The lawyers said a series of errors by the judge, including letting four women testify about alleged conduct for which Weinstein was not charged, undermined the presumption their client was innocent.
They want the Court of Appeals to reverse his convictions and 23-year prison sentence, dismiss the rape charge because it was brought too late and order a new trial on a single count of criminal sexual act.
“A defendant cannot be tried based on his character — but must be tried based on the conduct for which he has been accused,” Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala said in a statement.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose predecessor Cyrus Vance brought the Manhattan case, is expected to respond to Weinstein’s brief.
Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sexual encounters with anyone.
He is also awaiting sentencing, including a possible 18-year prison term, in Los Angeles after a jury there convicted him last month of raping and sexually assaulting a former model and actress in a hotel.
Jurors in Manhattan convicted Weinstein in February 2020 of sexually assaulting a former production assistant in 2006 and raping an aspiring actress in 2013.
That verdict was considered a milestone for #MeToo, where women have accused hundreds of men in entertainment, media, politics and other fields of sexual misconduct.
Weinstein co-founded the Miramax film studio, whose hit movies included “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction.” His own eponymous film studio filed for bankruptcy in March 2018.
A mid-level state appeals court unanimously upheld Weinstein’s Manhattan conviction in June.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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