Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction overturned by New York appeals court: The latest

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury deliberations in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in New York. New York's highest court has overturned Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction and ordered a new trial.
Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury deliberations in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in New York. New York's highest court has overturned Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction and ordered a new trial. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo/File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

This is a breaking news explainer from Yahoo Entertainment.

🚨 What just happened?

The New York State Court of Appeals overturned Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction. The court's 4-3 decision on Thursday ruled that the judge in the high-stakes trial prejudiced the jury by allowing women to testify that the Oscar-winning producer had sexually assaulted them; however, their accusations were not part of prosecutors' charges against him.

"We conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes," the decision read, in part. "The remedy for these egregious errors is a new trial."

📖 The background

Weinstein was accused of rape, sexual assault and/or misconduct by more than 80 women, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd. Dueling 2017 exposés by the New York Times and the New Yorker kicked off the #MeToo movement that swept through Hollywood and beyond.

In his New York trial, Weinstein was found guilty on two of five possible counts: criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He was found not guilty of the most serious charges, of predatory sexual assault (two counts) and rape in the first degree. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He faced between five and 29 years behind bars.

"While he was not convicted on the most serious charges, we are disappointed in the verdict and will be filing an appeal. There are issues in this trial that were extremely troubling, and they prejudiced Mr. Weinstein's ability to have his case fairly judged," the defense team told Yahoo Entertainment at the time. "These will be addressed to a higher court."

📌 The stakes

Weinstein's New York case was viewed as a landmark trial in the #MeToo era. The ruling is the second big blow to the movement in recent years.

In 2021, accused rapist Bill Cosby's conviction was overturned by Pennsylvania's highest court. The court ruled his due process rights were violated as, years prior, he made a deal with the former district attorney that should have protected him from prosecution.

L.A. criminal defense lawyer Silva Megerditchian explains to Yahoo: "The real issue is the impact this ruling will have on the effectiveness of the #MeToo movement going forward in the court of law — where uncharged acts and testimony of victims who never got their day in court could be prevented from making their voices heard."

🗓️ What happens next?

Weinstein will remain in prison as he was convicted on similar charges in Los Angeles. In 2022, a jury found the disgraced mogul guilty on one count of rape and two counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 16 years behind bars, and the judge ruled he cannot serve the two sentences concurrently. He will be sent from New York to California.

New York prosecutors will have to decide whether to retry the case.

"We will do everything in our power to retry this case, and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivors of sexual assault," a spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney's office tells Yahoo Entertainment.

🗣️ How are people reacting?

"That is unfair to survivors," Judd told the New York Times. "We still live in our truth. And we know what happened."

Actress and activist Amber Tamblyn told the outlet the ruling is "a loss to the entire community of women who put their lives and careers on the line to speak out." However, she hopes it adds a spark for the movement. "If there is any good that comes out of this news, I hope that it reignites people and their passion to not just say they want equality, not just say they want safety, but to really work towards it."

Weinstein's lawyers, of course, are thrilled.

"You can’t throw out 100 years of legal precedent because someone is unpopular," Arthur Aidala, who represents Weinstein, said in a press conference outside the courthouse Thursday afternoon — the same one where former president Donald Trump is currently on trial.

"Today's legal ruling is a great day for America because it instills in us the faith that there is a justice system," Aidala continued.

Tarana Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement, held a press conference hours after news broke.

"We are devastated for the survivors who are connected to this case, and the survivors who found some solace and catharsis in the original verdict around Harvey Weinstein," she began.

"Inevitably, there will be headlines in the coming days and weeks talking about what this means for the #MeToo movement... I want to be clear that this moment and this decision actually means that we have a movement," Burke said. "Ten years ago, we could not get a man like Harvey Weinstein into a courtroom and you need to be clear about that."

Weinstein is expected to appear in court on Wednesday, May 1.

Updated, April 25, 2024, 2:55 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Weinstein's attorney and Burke.