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Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 Rape Conviction Overturned. Here’s What Happens Next

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New York’s top court on Thursday overturned Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction. The 72-year-old has been serving a 23-year sentence on rape and sexual assault charges in an upstate New York correctional facility since February 2020.

“I can imagine that sexual assault victims—not only in this country but maybe around the world—are feeling a bit re-traumatised,” Lindsay Goldbrum, an attorney for some of Weinstein’s accusers, tells TIME on Friday.

“With Weinstein's accusers coming forward, it really was the start of the #MeToo movement. And so to have his conviction overturned feels like a real step back in the progress [that] has been made,” Goldbrum says.

She also likens Weinstein’s case to the 2021 decision to overturn Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction. “There's a lot of nervousness on the part of sexual assault victims about what this all means for claims going forward.”

“To the casual observer, this decision might be viewed as tone-deaf and unfair,” says Roger Archibald, a former member of Mr. Weinstein’s legal team. “This decision does one thing: Declares that the trial was unfair. It represents a dispassionate, unbiased court that safeguards the rights of all defendants to a fair trial as enshrined in the United States Constitution.”

Here’s what we know about the landmark decision.

Why was Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction overturned?

In a 4-3 decision, the New York Court of Appeals found that the appointed judge prejudiced the disgraced movie mogul’s case by allowing prosecution to call women who were not part of the case to testify as witnesses. 

The court said that the testimony “served no material non-propensity purpose.” It added that the court’s decision to allow Weinstein to be cross-examined, when he had no criminal history, "portrayed [the] defendant in a highly prejudicial light."

In 2020, Lauren Young, Dawn Dunning, and Tarale Wulff testified about their experiences with Weinstein under a state law that permits testimony on “prior bad acts” to demonstrate behavioral trends.  

The court said Thursday that, “under our system of justice, the accused has a right to be held to account only for the crime charged.” Juda Engelmayer, a spokesperson for Weinstein, told Deadline they are “cautiously excited” about the ruling. “He still has a long road ahead of him because of the Los Angeles case. We are studying the ramifications of the appeal right now.”

According to Archibald, Weinstein’s overturned conviction is guided by the 6th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which enshrine the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury, and prohibit a state from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process. 

Read More: TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers

What does the overturned conviction mean for Harvey Weinstein?

Weinstein was also convicted of sex offenses in Los Angeles in 2022. In that case, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison. 

As a result of Thursday’s verdict, he will not be released from prison. Instead, it’s understood, he will be transferred to authorities in California, where his conviction still stands. The date has not been set for his transfer to L.A., but the transfer is “imminent,” says Archibald. 

What might happen next following the Court of Appeals’ decision?

A defining symbol of Hollywood, Weinstein was accused of using his position to bully, exploit, or coerce over 100 women in the film industry into granting him sexual favors. A bombshell 2017 New York Times article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey reported that Weinstein reached “at least eight” financial settlements with women who have accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact. 

The article inspired the 2022 drama film She Said, based on Kantor and Twohey's book of the same name in which they recount reporting on the story which propelled swathes of women to come forward with their own accusations. The #MeToo movement became a global phenomenon, with women across all industries coming forward to share their experiences of rape, harassment, and sexual assault. 

In light of Thursday’s decision, Weinstein's accusers could be expected to take the stand again and retell their stories on the witness stand, Sky News reported. The Manhattan District Attorney's office has confirmed that it will retry Weinstein, provided his accusers are willing to come forward again.   

"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 Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, said in a statement, per ABC News.

Goldbrum notes that Weinstein will not be tried for all of the same charges that were brought during his original trial. Instead, he will only be tried on the conviction charges that were overturned. Any charges that Weinstein was originally found not guilty of will be excluded during a retrial.

Additionally, a retrial will not include testimony from Molineux witnesses, the term given to witnesses who are not directly related to the charges, but can be brought in to demonstrate a defendant's “motive, opportunity, intent, common scheme or plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident.”

“It'll likely just be the three women whose accusations are tied to the criminal charges and so those women will likely have to retestify if they're willing to do so,” Goldbrum explains. “I imagine it will be quite re-traumatizing for these women to have to go through it again.”

How are people reacting to Harvey Weinstein’s overturned conviction? 

Kaja Sokola, Weinstein’s youngest accuser, who was 16 years old at the time of the alleged assault, said she is “angry and heartbroken” about the Court of Appeals’ decision.

“Weinstein continues to be protected by a broken justice system that retraumatizes victims and blames them for their abuse,” Sokola said in a statement shared with TIME. “To all survivors out there, especially those brave women who testified at the trial, I want you to know that your trauma does not define you.”  

Meanwhile Ashley Judd, who was one of the first high-profile women to publicly make allegations against Weinstein, told the BBC it was a “hard day” for survivors. “Oftentimes survivors say that the betrayal and the moral injury we suffer within the system is worse than the sexual body invasion we experienced in the first place," she said.

Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, spoke on the red carpet at the TIME100 Gala following the news of Weinstein’s overturned conviction. “I think that when people see hashtags go viral, they misunderstand what movements are—movements are made of people. And the one thing the survivor movement has is a lot of people,” Burke told TIME at Thursday’s event. 

“What we’ve seen historically is that movements always have disappointments, so while I was disappointed in what I saw today, I don’t see it as a setback. It means we have more work to do.”

In a statement emailed to TIME on Thursday, anti-sexual violence organization RAINN criticized the decision. "Overturning the conviction of Harvey Weinstein is a horrible decision that does not protect due process—it upends justice for the survivors of his crimes," Scott Berkowitz, RAINN founder and president, said.

“Harvey Weinstein was fairly convicted and deserves to be punished for all his crimes. RAINN urges District Attorney Bragg to immediately commit to retrying him. Our heart also goes out to the survivors who bravely testified against Weinstein and are now seeing that bravery turned into a legal loophole. We stand by you.”

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com