Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers want a court to throw out sexual assault charges against him, citing reasons on Friday including friendly emails from a woman who accused him of rape.
Lawyers for the former movie titan-turned-#MeToo villain filed notice they’ll seek dismissal of the case. Among other arguments, they say the grand jury that indicted Weinstein should have been told about emails from one of his three accusers in the case.
One message, less than a month after the alleged rape in March 2013, expresses appreciation for “all you do for me,” according copies of emails included in the court filing. Another message, days later, says “it would be great to see you again.”
“Miss you big guy,” another message added a few months later.
Over the ensuing months and years, the two continued warm exchanges arranging to meet —the woman wrote she was “so happy you saw me today” and very honoured! “after one get-together in October 2013 — and exchanging brief updates on their lives.
“There is no one else I would enjoy catching up with that understands me quite like you,” the woman, who has not been publicly identified, wrote in January 2014.
After saying she had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it to a hotel to see him in February 2017, the woman explained: “I love you, always do. But I hate feeling like a booty call,” with a smiling-face symbol afterward.
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Taken from about 400 communications between the two, the messages show “a long-term, consensual, intimate relationship” that prosecutors didn’t portray to the grand jury, Weinstein attorney Ben Brafman wrote in court papers.
They also take issue with other charges against Weinstein on legal grounds, such as being too vague or outside legal time limits, and argue all the charges should be dismissed.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment.
Brafman has already sought to cast doubt on the rape allegation, saying that the accuser had a decade-long relationship with Weinstein that continued after the alleged attack. And the attorney had signalled he would look to communications from Weinstein’s accusers, saying last month he’d seen “overwhelming evidence, in the form of email traffic” in Weinstein’s favour.
Brafman also said there were witnesses who could corroborate Weinstein’s denials of the charges, which involve separate encounters with three women in Manhattan.
New York law regarding whether prosecutors must let grand jurors know about evidence that could exonerate a defendant is complicated. State appeals courts have noted that prosecutors are obliged to seek justice and not just convictions, but the courts also have said prosecutors aren’t obliged to present grand jurors with all forms of evidence that could favour a defendant.
Besides the alleged rape in 2013, Weinstein is accused of forcibly performing oral sex on another woman in 2006 and forcing a third woman, Lucia Evans, to perform oral sex on him in his office in 2004, when she was an aspiring actress.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they consent to being identified publicly.
Evans was among the first of what became more than 75 women who have come forward publicly since last fall to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault, in various locales. Allegations against Weinstein, first brought to light by The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine, catalyzed the #MeToo movement about calling out sexual misbehaviour.
No other criminal cases have been filed against Weinstein, who produced movies including Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love. He denies all allegations of non-consensual sex but has apologized for causing “a lot of pain” with “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past.”
Brafman has called the case a product of political pressure to prosecute Weinstein amid the #MeToo outcry over sexual misconduct.
Weinstein, 66, is free on $1 million bail.