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Here's Why Harvey Weinstein's New York Rape Conviction Was Overturned and What Happens Next

Here's why Harvey Weinstein's New York rape conviction was tossed and what happens next.

By The Associated Press
Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Court

The decision by New York's highest court to overturn the rape conviction of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reopened a painful chapter in America's reckoning with sexual misconduct by powerful figures — an era that began in 2017 and helped launch the #MeToo movement.

Here's what you need to know about why Weinstein's rape conviction was thrown out and what happens next:

Why was the conviction overturned?

New York's Court of Appeals found the trial judge in the rape case prejudiced Weinstein with "egregious" improper rulings, including a decision to let women testify about allegations that Weinstein wasn't charged with.

In its 4-3 decision, the court's majority said it was an "abuse of judicial discretion" for Judge James Burke to allow testimony from these other women about "loathsome alleged bad acts and despicable behavior."

"Without question, this is appalling, shameful, repulsive conduct that could only diminish defendant's character before the jury," they said.

Weinstein's attorney Arthur Aidala had argued that Burke also swayed the trial by giving prosecutors permission to confront Weinstein, if he chose to testify, about his past history.

He said Weinstein wanted to testify but opted not to because he would have had to answer questions about more than two-dozen alleged acts of misbehavior dating back four decades, including fighting with his movie producer brother, flipping over a table in anger, snapping at waiters and yelling at his assistants.

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Will Weinstein be released?

Weinstein, 72, will remain imprisoned because he was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Weinstein has been serving time in New York, most recently at the Mohawk Correctional Facility, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Albany.

Weinstein will be taken to Los Angeles to serve his sentence there. It is not clear how quickly that will happen, and officials in California have not yet given any details. A hearing in New York may be required first.

What's the status of the California case?

Weinstein's lawyers are appealing the only Weinstein conviction now remaining — a guilty verdict on Los Angeles charges of rape and sexual assault against Italian actor and model Evgeniya Chernyshova.

"A jury was told in California that he was convicted in another state for rape ... turns out he shouldn't have been convicted and it wasn't a fair conviction. … It interfered with his presumption of innocence in a significant way in California," said attorney Jennifer Bonjean, whose arguments freed Bill Cosby in his appeal on Pennsylvania sex assault convictions.

Chernyshova described in tearful testimony how Weinstein attacked her in a hotel room during a film festival in 2013. Jurors rejected the allegations of another woman and couldn't reach verdicts on two others, including those of a documentary filmmaker married to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly as Chernyshova has, and her attorney approved of the AP using her name.

The same issues that led to overturning the New York verdict are at the center of his California appeal. The Los Angeles trial judge allowed testimony from four women who said Weinstein sexually assaulted them in incidents he was not charged with. While the law allows for such witnesses within limits, appellate judges in California will also be looking at whether Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench went too far in allowing testimony showing a pattern of Weinstein preying on women.

Bonjean's appeal brief is due next month. Lench has meanwhile rejected a motion for a new trial.

What happens next?

The Manhattan district attorney's office isn't giving up, which means his accusers could be forced to retell their stories on the witness stand.

"We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault," the prosecutors' statement said.

Weinstein maintains he's innocent of the charges of criminal sex acts involving forced oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 and rape in the third degree for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013. He said any sex was consensual.