New York (AFP)
Already indicted for two sexual assaults, the former film producer Harvey Weinstein should be informed Monday of new allegations against him, which could complicate his defense and postpone his imminent trial.
The Manhattan prosecutor's office said Thursday that it has obtained a new indictment in this case, which has become emblematic of the #MeToo movement, without disclosing its content.
But according to US media reports, partially confirmed by defense lawyers, the new act would seek to allow the prosecution to score points on the key issue of the number of Harvey Weinstein's accusers who will be allowed to testify. at the trial, scheduled to start on 9 September with jury selection.
The ousted 67-year-old producer, who has always ensured that his sexual relations were granted and should again plead not guilty on Monday, has been accused of sexual abuse ranging from harassment to rape by more than 80 women, including many celebrities.
But the co-founder of Miramax Studios and The Weinstein Company, long a powerful Hollywood figure, was hitherto prosecuted only for two alleged assaults, a sexual assault in 2006 on a production assistant, and a rape in 2013 on a woman remained anonymous.
But the new indictment, which should be unveiled Monday, include the testimony of actress Annabella Sciorra, known for the series "The Sopranos", according to some US media.
By October 2017, in a New Yorker article that helped trigger the #MeToo movement, she accused Weinstein of raping her in 1993 at her home in Manhattan.
Sciorra, however, reportedly contacted the prosecutor too late for her allegations - too old to be formally prosecuted - to be in the previous indictment, the prosecutor in charge of the case said in a letter to the judge quoted by the New York Times.
However, the prosecutor had asked the judge to have Ms. Sciorra testify at trial.
The judge, James Burke, refused at first, on the grounds that the actress had not previously testified before a grand jury, as is the American procedure.
The prosecutor would therefore hope, with the new indictment, to obtain a green light from Ms. Sciorra's testimony.
- How many women at the trial?
The prosecution also asked to be able to call other women to testify, but we do not know which ones or how many.
A hearing on this key issue was held in camera in April.
The number of Weinstein accusers allowed to testify could be instrumental in convincing jurors to convict him, as shown by the 2018 conviction of comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault.
Pending Monday's hearing, Harvey Weinstein's lawyers called the new indictment a "desperate" indictment, and warned they would seek a reversal of the prosecution.
For Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University and a former prosecutor, their request is unlikely to succeed.
But the defense could get "more time to prepare the trial", whose opening would be postponed, he said.
The defense has also recently requested that the trial be held outside of New York, saying it was impossible to find impartial jurors in a city where the media outbid revelations about Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement.
A decision on this issue is also expected Monday, but many believe an improbable judicial change.
© 2019 AFP