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Sponsor says measure to close Weinstein loophole is ‘dead’ in the New York State Assembly

Harvey Weinstein appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in New York. The fallen movie mogul is awaiting a retrial on rape charges after his 2020 conviction was tossed out. Wednesday's court hearing addressed various legal issues related to the upcoming trial, which is tentatively scheduled for some time after Labor Day.
Steven Hirsch
/
The Associated Press pool photo
Harvey Weinstein appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in New York. The fallen movie mogul is awaiting a retrial on rape charges after his 2020 conviction was tossed out. Wednesday's court hearing addressed various legal issues related to the upcoming trial, which is tentatively scheduled for some time after Labor Day.

As the New York state legislative session winds down, it appears unlikely that a bill will pass to close a legal loophole that led to the overturning of the rape conviction for former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. 

The Assembly sponsor of the measure said that could lead to more rapists and child molesters not coming to justice.

In April, the state’s highest court overturned Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction. In a 4-to-3 decision, Court of Appeals judges ruled that the prosecutor should not have included the testimony of three women who also said that Weinstein sexually assaulted them because the alleged incidents were not among the charges against him in the trial. 

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is the sponsor of a bill that closes what’s become known as the "Weinstein loophole." It would amend the laws to allow evidence of previous sex crimes to be admitted in sexual assault trials to show that the person charged might have the propensity to commit the crime. 

The legislation was approved in the Senate, but Paulin told reporters that the bill does not have enough support among majority-party Assembly Democrats to pass.

Paulin said more sexual abusers will go free unless the measure passes.

“I was devastated, because I believe that without this change, serial rapists will not be convicted in New York as easily as they should be, causing a problem for primarily women out there to be to be raped,” Paulin said. “And to me, that's very problematic.”

Defendants' rights groups, including the Legal Aid Society, oppose the measure, saying it is too broadly written and could lead to wrongful convictions and adversely affect Black and Latino New Yorkers.

Paulin said some progressive members of the Assembly agree with those groups. She said other opponents want to wait until 2025 to think more about the issue and craft a better bill.

The legislation, as well as other important end-of-session matters, are discussed in closed-door party conferences, so there’s no public record of what is said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday said that she believes the Legislature should agree on a measure and pass it before they leave for the summer.

“The Legislature should act on something, yes,” Hochul said.

Paulin said that Hochul has not been involved, though, in trying to bring the Senate and Assembly together to agree on one bill.

“I would love her input and direct involvement on this bill,” Paulin said. “We need it.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office plans to retry Weinstein on the rape charge as early as September. Without passage of the bill, it will have to operate under the Court of Appeals ruling and won’t be able to include testimony from others who say he committed similar acts.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.