A New York judge on Tuesday approved disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s extradition to California, where he faces additional sexual assault charges. The decision ends a legal fight prolonged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the defence’s concerns about Weinstein’s failing health and a squabble over paperwork.
Judge Kenneth Case said there was no reason to delay Weinstein’s transfer any longer, denying his lawyer’s request to keep him at a state prison near Buffalo, N.Y., — where he is serving a 23-year sentence for a rape conviction last year — until the start of jury selection in the Los Angeles case.
Los Angeles authorities plan to collect Weinstein, 69, from the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, N.Y., at the end of June or in early July, prosecutors said at Tuesday’s extradition hearing in Buffalo. That will give Weinstein’s lawyer time to appeal Case’s decision.
Weinstein requires medical care, lawyer argues
Weinstein’s lawyer, Norman Effman, argued he should remain in Wende’s hospital-like maximum-security setting while receiving treatment for maladies including a loss of eyesight, rather than being shipped cross-country to a Los Angeles jail cell.
His suggestion that Weinstein instead be arraigned by video was also rejected.
“What we were trying to do is not avoid the trial, but avoid an unnecessary stay in a jail rather than a prison,” Effman said, claiming pre-trial detention in California would rob Weinstein of needed medical care.
Erie County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable, arguing in favour of Weinstein’s extradition, retorted: “It’s Los Angeles. It’s not some remote outpost that doesn’t have any sort of medical care.”
Weinstein appealing verdict in N.Y. case
Weinstein faces 11 counts of sexual assault in California involving five women, stemming from alleged assaults in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills from 2004 to 2013.
The charges include rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual battery by restraint and sexual penetration by use of force.
WATCH | Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison:
Los Angeles prosecutors first charged Weinstein in January 2020, just as jury selection was getting underway in the New York City case that ended in his conviction and imprisonment.
Weinstein is appealing the verdict that he raped an aspiring actress in 2013 in a Manhattan hotel room and forcibly performed oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 at his Manhattan apartment.
Because Weinstein is incarcerated in New York, Case’s authorization was needed in order to transfer him to the custody of Los Angeles authorities under the terms of an interstate extradition agreement.
One other way Weinstein’s move could have been blocked was by an objection from New York’s governor, but Gable said there was no such action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Weinstein, appearing via video from the Wende prison, buried his mask-covered face in his hands after Case announced his decision. Earlier in the hearing, Weinstein had the white mask drooping from his right ear as he sat in what appeared to be a prison meeting room.
In addition to concerns about Weinstein’s health, Effman questioned the legitimacy of extradition paperwork filed by Los Angeles authorities, which he said was defective because it listed only some of the charges.
“We are challenging the paperwork because it’s not right. It’s wrong,” Effman told Case. “They just copied the form and changed the date.”
Gable said the paperwork “absolutely met the requirements” of the extradition agreement.
District attorney challenges health claims
Gable also challenged Effman’s claims about Weinstein’s health.
Effman told the judge Weinstein rejected a prescribed treatment for his eye condition last week because he said he “wasn’t psychologically ready for it.” He said prison officials had cycled through ophthalmologists trying to find one “acceptable to the defendant.”
Weinstein has myriad health problems and his condition has worsened since he’s been in prison, according to his lawyers. He had a bout of COVID-19 two weeks after his sentencing in March 2020.
Weinstein has diabetes, extensive coronary artery disease, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic lower back pain, significant sciatica with neuropathy, chronic leg pain and arthritis with severe limitations of ability to walk, anemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and eye ailments that have severely degraded his vision, his lawyers said.
“Every inmate has an absolute right to appropriate treatment when he or she is in custody,” Gable said. “But they don’t have a say in when and where they get their treatment, and there’s absolutely nothing in either doctor’s report that says this treatment can’t be done in Los Angeles.”