Assemblywoman Amy Paulin Urges Legislature to Pass Her Legislation, A.4992, after Harvey Weinstein 2020 Rape Conviction Overturned by NY Appeals Court

Albany, NY – Today, the New York Court of Appeals overturned Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction in a 4-3 decision, concluding that “the trial court erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes.”

In 2020, Weinstein was convicted in New York of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree for offenses against two women. The judge in his trial allowed for the admittance of evidence of his prior sexual assaults under the Molineux Rule, which allows prosecutors to bring in proof of a defendant’s prior bad acts or crimes to establish motive, intent, or other relevant issues.

However, in February, Weinstein’s defense argued that Justice James Burke influenced the trial by allowing three women to testify about allegations that weren’t part of the case. Today, in a 4-3 decision, New York’s highest court overturned the 2020 decision and determined Weinstein had not received a fair trial.

The NY Court of Appeals is composed of seven judges, but for this case, two judges recused themselves. While it would be standard practice to allow the remaining five judges to vote, the Chief Judge appointed two new judges which provided the 4-vote majority that overturned the conviction. The three judges that voted to uphold the conviction were all permanent judges on the court.

“I am deeply disheartened by the NY Court of Appeals decision today and urge the legislature to pass my bill to allow NY courts to admit evidence that a defendant has committed any prior sexual assaults in a criminal proceeding in which a defendant is accused of sexual assault” said Assemblywoman Paulin, “we must ensure that victims are able to rely on this type of evidence in future cases.”

Assemblywoman Paulin has introduced legislation, A.4992, that would codify the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) in New York State law. Pursuant to FRE 413, the court may admit evidence that the defendant committed any other past sexual assault. Sex offenders are far more likely overall, as compared to non-sex offenders, to reoffend with a sexual crime. Sexual assault is an especially heinous crime and given the likelihood of recidivism, it is necessary to codify FRE 413. If New York enacted this legislation, we would join the sixteen other states that have adopted the FRE to protect victims of sexual assault.

“The stunning reversal of Harvey Weinstein's conviction shows a failure by New York's highest court to recognize the relevance of an abuser's pattern of serial sexual assault. It is time for New York to do what 16 other states and the Federal Rules of Evidence have done and allow juries to hear evidence of a sexual abuser's pattern of similar conduct. We applaud Assemblywoman Amy Paulin for leading the way by introducing a bill to right this injustice,” said Jane Manning, Director of Women’s Equal Justice.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Chief Executive Officer for Sanctuary for Families, said, "Sanctuary for Families and the survivors we serve are deeply troubled by the reversal of Harvey Weinstein's conviction for rape, a decision that exposes a critical gap in our legal system's response to sexual violence. Assembly Member Amy Paulin's bill, A4992, which permits the admission of evidence of the defendant’s prior sexual assaults in sexual assault prosecutions, is precisely the legislative response urgently needed to address this gap. This reform, adopted by California and fifteen other states, would help ensure that serial sex offenders are held accountable and prevented from continuing to perpetrate harm while strengthening the rights of survivors to access justice. Sanctuary for Families urges New York State lawmakers to act decisively and pass this bill.”

"We are profoundly disheartened by the Court's decision to reverse Harvey Weinstein's case. For survivors to have a chance to achieve justice, these cases should have the ability to include evidence of prior sexual assaults perpetrated by the abuser," said Robyn Mazur, Executive Director of the Joyful Heart Foundation. "Overturning this ruling and forcing survivors to endure the retraumatizing effects of another trial will also create a chilling effect on other survivors in the future."