Weinstein Wants 2nd Circuit to Nix ‘Sex Trafficking’ Claim

MANHATTAN (CN) – Denying that a Hollywood “casting couch” can be considered a commercial sex act, defense attorneys urged a federal judge Wednesday to fast-track their appeal of a trafficking claim against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein, right, appears at his arraignment with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, in Manhattan Criminal Court on on May 25, 2018, in New York. Weinstein is charged with two counts of rape and one count of criminal sexual act. He was released on $1 million bail. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News via AP, Pool)

Kadian Noble, an actress who says Weinstein’s staff used false pretenses during the 2014 Cannes film festival to lure her into a hotel room where the Hollywood mogul sexually assaulted her, included the sex-trafficking claim when she filed suit in 2017.

Noble says Weinstein ignored her pleas for him to stop as he trapped her in the bathroom of his hotel suite and physically forced her to masturbate him while insisting that “everything will be taken care of for you if you relax.”

Refusing to dismiss the the sex-trafficking claim this past August, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet concluded that the proverbial casting couch, in which women are asked to trade sex for Hollywood opportunities, could be considered a “commercial sex act.”

Vying to have the Second Circuit weigh in on what qualifies as a “commercial sex act,” Weinstein’s lawyers at Kupferstein Manuel have argued that nothing of value was exchanged between Noble and Weinstein.

“On the issue of first impression presented here, the appellate court may well construe the Trafficking Statute more literally than this Court and find that non-trafficking conduct in which the promised ‘thing of value’ is a ‘career-making and life-changing’ film role – rather than the promise to be free from harm or conduct that threatens the victim’s physical well-being and livelihood, as is found in reported civil sex trafficking cases — falls outside the civil remedy provisions of the statute,” Phyllis Kupferstein wrote in an October 2018 memorandum.

Kupferstein told the court Wednesday that she would seek a stay of Weinstein’s trial if Judge Sweet certifies the order for appeal.

Jeffrey Herman, an attorney for Noble, noted meanwhile that Judge Sweet’s track record for allowing interlocutory appeals is thin. In the one outlier, part of the consolidated cases involving the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, Sweet sought to avoid burdening the federal justice system with hundreds of separate appeals across the county.

“Mrs. Noble is not TWA,” Herman said. 

While Judge Sweet reserved his decision at the conclusion of  the brief hearing Thursday, Herman told reporters afterward that he was “encouraged by Judge Sweet’s words.”

Herman said that Noble is “doing remarkably well” and has recently moved from London to Los Angeles, reenergized to pursue the acting career that she had all but completely given up on eight months before the Weinstein sexual-harassment scandal broke in October 2017.

“She’s in L.A. and feeling strong,” Herman said, adding that Noble is motivated to make her voice heard to set an example for her 12-year old daughter. 

Herman is also involved in a federal lawsuit against Weinstein in California, representing Dominique Huett who claims that Weinstein masturbated in front of her and performed oral sex on her in 2010.

Weinstein has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the multiple pending lawsuits. 

The producer’s sexual-assault trial in Manhattan Supreme Court has been postponed until June 3. Weinstein faces life in prison for the five counts in New York state case, which consists of two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of first-degree rape and one count of third-degree rape.

Weinstein is due back in Manhattan court before Justice James Burke for a pretrial conference on March 8.

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