Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty on Monday to a new indictment that included revised charges of predatory sexual assault. The revisions forced the delay of Weinstein’s trial from 9 September to 6 January 2020.
The changes, which reflect new evidence presented to a grand jury this month, may enable the prosecution to add testimony from actor Annabella Sciorra, who has claimed she was assaulted by Weinstein in 1993.
Defence attorney Donna Rotunno said the changes revealed “the weakness” of the prosecution’s case.
As he left the court, Weinstein, who was admonished by judge James Burke for pulling out a cellphone during the proceeding, described the latest development as a “home run”.
Weinstein has already been charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of first-degree rape and one count of third-degree rape.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges, maintaining that encounters with his accusers were consensual. If found guilty, the 67-year-old could spend the rest of his life in jail.
Last week, lawyers for Weinstein described the arraignment as “unprecedented”.
“There has been no case in recent memory where a district attorney has gone back to the grand jury on two separate occasions to re-present a case before that body in the hopes of obtaining an indictment that can withstand the scrutiny of a trial jury,” Rotunno and fellow attorney Arthur Aidala said in a statement.
The lawyers claimed the “action by the prosecutor bespeaks the desperation that has engulfed their case” and indicated “more of a focus on obtaining a conviction at all costs than on seeking justice”.
More than 80 women have alleged sexual misconduct on the part of the producer, over four decades.
Prosecutors first charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting three women. Charges relating to the actor Lucia Evans were dropped over inconsistencies in her testimony raised by the defense.
Evans alleged that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a meeting in 2004. But according to public records, a witness told police Evans had said her sexual encounter with Weinstein was consensual.
Among the alleged encounters that remain attached to the case, Mimi Haleyi claims Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. The other accuser, who has not been identified, has accused Weinstein of twice raping her in 2013.
Weinstein’s lawyers claim the woman maintained communications with Weinstein after the alleged encounter, describing “a consensual intimate relationship documented in more than 400 emails”.
Earlier this year, prosecutors amended their evidence to add Sciorra. Judge Burke first said Sciorra could not be added to the case because she had not been before a grand jury. Prosecutors convened another such panel this month, resulting in the indictment.
Weinstein’s defense team has also sought to have the trial moved from Manhattan.
In a court filing last week, attorneys said: “It is safe to say that New York City is the least likely place on earth where Mr Weinstein could receive a fair trial, where jurors could hear evidence, deliberate, and render a verdict in an atmosphere free of intimidation from pressure to deliver a result that the politicians, the activists, the celebrities and the media demand.”
Judge Burke has yet to rule on that request.