News World Harvey Weinstein accuser hopes for ‘justice’ as Hollywood mogul suffers legal setback

Harvey Weinstein accuser hopes for ‘justice’ as Hollywood mogul suffers legal setback

Mr Weinstein had sought to have charges against him thrown out of court. Photo: AP/John Carucci
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Katherine Kendall feels a range of emotions every time the Harvey Weinstein case comes up in the news or court.

The actress turned artist is one of more than 80 women to publicly accuse the once-powerful Hollywood film producer of being a sexual predator.

But since his not guilty plea six months ago, she has become more worried the criminal charges will not stick, as Mr Weinstein and his legal team try to discredit the evidence against him.

“It will hurt if he gets off, there’s no doubt about that,” she said when she met with the ABC in Brooklyn.

“This is an important case … in terms of the #MeToo movement as well.

“But I do believe most people will believe the women, no matter what happens in court.”

Her allegation, which is not part of the current criminal prosecution, is similar to those made by many others.

In 1993, the young actress said she was invited up to Mr Weinstein’s apartment after a successful business meeting.

She alleges he went into the bathroom and returned wearing only a robe, before repeatedly demanding a massage.

Kendall believes the #MeToo movement will continue regardless of the outcome of the case. Photo: ABC

“He said, ‘so and so does it, it’s not a big deal, what’s wrong with you?'” Kendall recounted.

“He then went to the bathroom to get dressed … and this time he came back fully naked.”

“There was a back and forth and a little side-to-side dance as I tried to talk my way out, and that’s eventually how I got out.”

Weinstein fails to get criminal case thrown out

Faced with claims like that, Mr Weinstein’s defence lawyers have gone on the attack.

They have actively tried to shed doubt on his accusers in a bid to kill the case against him.

The women have been cast as liars or untrustworthy.

It has also been claimed the police and prosecutors have been unduly swayed by the #MeToo movement, rather than hard facts.

The approach had some early success. A few months ago, one of the criminal charges was dropped, after a detective made several mistakes in his investigation.

Mr Brafman said the #MeToo movement should not overpower the judicial process. Photo: ABC

But on Friday (Thursday local time), Mr Weinstein suffered a setback.

In a hearing lasting just 10 minutes, a Manhattan judge rejected a motion to have the five felony charges against him, which include predatory sexual assault and rape, thrown out of court.

The case will now proceed to trial, a decision that disappointed Mr Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman.

“This is not about the #MeToo movement,” he said outside court.

“A movement should not … be permitted to push an indictment that is deeply flawed.”

Legal approach understandable, but not without risk: lawyer

Criminal defence experts say Mr Weinstein’s lawyers would not have wanted to go to trial.

But they agree with the combative legal approach.

“I’d do exactly what [Mr Weinstein’s] lawyers are currently doing,” Elena Fast, a criminal defence attorney at the Blanch Law Firm in New York, said.

“They’re filing motions trying to dismiss the case.

“You’re trying to kill the prosecution by a thousand paper cuts.

“The ultimate defence is that these were all consensual encounters and the victims all did engage in consensual relationships with Mr Weinstein after the alleged incidents.”

Criminal defence attorney Elena Fast said Mr Weinstein’s legal team would try to argue each encounter was consensual. Photo: ABC

The strategy is not entirely without risk though.

The case will now probably end up in front of a jury.

Some legal experts warn jurors today might take more offence to the narratives being pushed by the defence than they would have 10 years ago.

Given the global profile of the case, there have been suggestions the approach could end up backfiring.

This case has opened the floodgates: Kendall

For Kendall, none of the legal tactics come as a surprise.

She has long expected the Hollywood figure, who campaigned so successfully for Oscars and film rights, would fight tooth and nail to avoid jail time.

“This is a man desperately struggling to save himself, which in a strange way is understandable,” she said.

“I don’t believe him, I think it’s a part he’s playing and I think he knows what he did is wrong.

“He can’t come back from this.”

Mr Weinstein pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Photo: ABC

She also does not believe the outcome of the prosecution will affect the future of the #MeToo movement more broadly.

“I think we’ve seen the floodgates open,” she said.

“It’s been a sort of cultural turning point – no matter what happens.

“This is bigger than Harvey Weinstein.”