NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Harvey Weinstein returned to court Thursday in Manhattan, where a judge declined to dismiss the sexual assault charges against him.
Weinstein’s lawyers had argued the case was “irreparably tainted” by a detective’s alleged coaching of a potential witness and one of the accusers. They also said the grand jury should have been shown evidence that Weinstein had exchanged friendly emails with his two accusers after the alleged attacks.
But Judge James Burke ruled that Weinstein’s claims of prosecutorial misconduct had “no basis.” He also denied Weinstein’s request for an evidentiary hearing.
Weinstein’s next court date is scheduled for March 7.
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Weinstein’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said he was disappointed with Burke’s ruling, but said he remains confident Weinstein will be “completely exonerated” at trial.
“We intend to vigorously defend this case to the best of our ability,” Brafman told reporters after the hearing. “It does not in any way suggest that the case against Mr. Weinstein is going to end badly.”
Web Extra: Read judge’s ruling (pdf)
Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. He pleaded not guilty and is free on $1 million bail. He left court without commenting.
He is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in his hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.
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“Headlines suggesting that the case is crumbling are incorrect,” said attorney Gloria Allred, who represents one of the alleged victims.
“Today, here in New York, we saw the first steps towards justice,” Time’s Up President Lisa Borders said after the judge’s ruling. “We are relieved that Harvey Weinstein failed in his efforts to avoid accountability for his actions.”
Burke could have dismissed some or all of the charges, which would have been a major setback for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who was criticized for declining to pursue criminal charges against Weinstein when he was accused of groping an Italian model in 2015. Vance cited a lack of supporting evidence at the time, despite the existence of a clandestinely made recording of Weinstein discussing the episode with the woman.
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But in recent months, Weinstein worked side-by-side with Brafman to throw doubt on the case and his accusers. They plucked emails from his movie studio’s servers they say showed Weinstein had friendly, consensual relationships with the women.
Weinstein’s defense was boosted in October by back-to-back allegations of misconduct in the police investigation.
Manhattan prosecutors dropped one of the charges against him — allegations that he raped an aspiring actress who was still in college — after evidence surfaced that Det. Nicholas DiGaudio instructed a potential witness to keep some of her doubts about the veracity of the allegations to herself.
DiGaudio allegedly told the witness in February that when she spoke to prosecutors, “less is more.” That witness never testified before the grand jury that indicted Weinstein.
Burke, in his ruling, noted that count was dismissed not because prosecutors disbelieved the alleged victim but because they determined they may not have been able to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Prosecutors also disclosed an allegation that DiGaudio urged the 2013 rape accuser to delete private material from her cellphones before handing them over to the DA’s office.
Prosecutors said the material didn’t pertain to Weinstein and the woman wound up not deleting anything. DiGaudio’s union has said he “was simply trying to get to the truth” and wasn’t trying to influence the investigation.
Late last month, Weinstein’s lawyers said they spoke to a woman who said the rape accuser asked her to corroborate her allegations, but the friend wouldn’t “make up a story.”
The friend told investigators that Weinstein and the accuser had been “hooking up” consensually for a while and that she never heard her say anything bad about him until last year, Brafman said in a court filing.
In the months after The New York Times and The New Yorker began publishing stories about Weinstein’s interactions with women, activists pressured Vance to bring charges as dozens of people came forward with claims of sexual misconduct against him.
New York Police officials poured on the pressure, too, saying publicly they believed they had gathered ample evidence to make an arrest.
Burke’s ruling revealed that Weinstein had agreed in May to testify before the grand jury considering his case. He was arrested days later and then withdrew his notice to testify before the grand jury that charged him.
In total, more than 75 women have come forward accusing Weinstein of sexual abuse.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)