Weinstein Off the Grid Dozens of Times, Prosecutors Tell Court

Harvey Weinstein, center, leaves court Friday following a bail hearing in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MANHATTAN (CN) — A month before the start of Harvey Weinstein’s felony sex crime trial, prosecutors urged a judge Friday to quintuple his cash bond to $5 million, citing more than 50 ankle-bracelet violations.

Prosecutors said the 67-year-old movie mogul was missing and nonresponsive for hours when his pretrial ankle monitoring bracelet went out of service 56 times in September and October.

Weinstein’s defense attorneys responded in court this morning that the so-called violations were just “technical glitches” and questioned why prosecutors did not flag the issue in September or October as it was happening.

After the last glitch on Oct. 7, defense lawyer Donna Rotunno Weinstein said, the defendant bought three extra chargers for his monitoring equipment, which consists of an ankle-worn bracelet and separate signaling device.

In Bedford, the town in Westchester County where Weinstein resides, there are no cellular towers, the lawyer added.

Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, senior trial counsel for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, requested to increase Weinstein’s bail conditions to $5 million cash bond, or $50 million security bond, partially secured at 10%, to ensure his appearance at trial in January.

The increased bond would not be overly burdensome on Weinstein, Illuzzi-Orbon argued, pointing out that the co-founder of the Miramax studio and The Weinstein Co. had sold five properties over the last two years totaling $60 million.

Weinstein’s defense responded that his real estate sales are no way a windfall for the disgraced producer, who has two ex-wives, major liabilities and a company that recently went bankrupt.

Judge James Burke held the hearing ostensibly to discuss how New York state’s  criminal bail reforms that go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, will affect Weinstein’s trial.

For Weinstein, Burke explained, the new bail laws mean that he will no longer have to pay for his own ankle bracelet monitoring services. Weinstein’s attorneys assured the court that the producer would still happily incur the costs.

Judge Burke will rule on the modification at a hearing next week on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Weinstein’s attorneys appeared confident in signals from the judge that he would not order any drastic changes to the bail conditions. 

“I think the judge is tempted to leave the bail conditions as close to what they already are as he can given the statute,” Rotunno told reporters after the hearing Friday. Wearing a light gray suit with comfortable black Vans sneakers, Weinstein look more pallid at today’s hearing than in prior court appearances.

Weinstein faces a life sentence if convicted on five felony charges, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, rape in the first degree, and rape in the third degree.

His trial is set to begin Jan. 6, 2020.

Starting the same month, New York will eliminate cash bail for all misdemeanors and most nonviolent felony crimes in New York. Cash bail and pretrial detention will still be allowed in some cases, including sex crimes, witness intimidation and charges related to domestic violence.

A recent report by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that individuals who have not been convicted of a crime make up 67% of the average daily jail population across the state.

The reforms also include new requirements for prosecutors to provide accused the full range of discovery evidence prior to the acceptance of a plea bargain.

California became the first state to scrap cash bail, effective in October 2019. Washington, D.C., is the only other jurisdiction to eliminate cash bail.

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