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Judge threatens Harvey Weinstein with jail for texting in court

  • Published at 07:38 pm January 8th, 2020
Harvey Weinstein
Film producer Harvey Weinstein exits the New York Criminal Court after his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 7, 2020 Reuters

Forty of the potential jurors said they could not be impartial in the case, and were allowed to leave

Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial took a dramatic turn on Tuesday as the judge threatened to revoke his bail and jail the former film producer after catching him using his cellphone just as jury selection got underway.

“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting and violating a court order?” state Judge James Burke asked the 67-year-old defendant, visibly angry.

“I’m not looking for apologies; I’m looking for compliance,” Burke said.

The once-powerful producer has been released on bail, but is required to wear an electronic-tracking device that was visible on his ankle when he arrived at court on Tuesday.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

Jury selection began with Burke speaking to 120 potential jurors in the courtroom about the importance of jury service and telling them the identity of the defendant.

“Having heard of him, or even having heard the allegations made against him in the press, does not disqualify you,” he told them.

Forty of the potential jurors said they could not be impartial in the case, and were allowed to leave. Others were excused after speaking to the judge and lawyers in private about why it would be a hardship for them to serve.

Burke read to jurors a list of dozens of names that might come up at the trial, including actresses Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron, who have accused Weinstein of misconduct.

That message propelled the #MeToo movement, which prompted women to lodge misconduct allegations against powerful men in politics and business.

Burke did not say if the people he mentioned would be called as witnesses.

Prosecutors have said they may call three women to testify about encounters with Weinstein, even though he is not formally charged with crimes against them. Their testimony is intended to bolster the charges by showing that Weinstein had a consistent pattern of  behaviour.