By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty on Monday to a new indictment as his upcoming criminal trial was pushed back to January, in a case where prosecutors have accused him of rape and predatory sexual assault.
Weinstein, 67, entered his plea in a New York state court in Manhattan, where his trial was delayed by four months, to Jan. 6, 2020. He had faced a Sept. 9 trial date.
The new indictment accuses Weinstein of two counts of predatory sexual assault, stemming from alleged assaults against two women, in 2006 and 2013. Those charges are essentially the same as those in the previous indictment against Weinstein, and prosecutors moved Monday to consolidate the two cases.
However, the new indictment also comes with a disclosure that a third woman will be called to testify that Weinstein raped her in 1993 to bolster the prosecutors’ case. Weinstein cannot be charged directly with raping that woman, actress Annabella Sciorra, because the statute of limitations has run out.
New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke, who is presiding over the case, had previously ruled that Sciorra could not testify because the grand jury that returned the earlier indictment had not heard any evidence about her alleged rape.
“I commend Annabella for her willingness to take the stand and answer questions under oath,” Sciorra’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, said in a statement on Monday.
Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, said after the hearing that Weinstein would seek to dismiss the new indictment, calling the case “weak.”
Once among Hollywood’s most powerful producers, he has pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges in the earlier indictment, including rape and predatory sexual assault. He could face a life sentence if convicted.
The two women in the earlier indictment are among roughly 70 who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Weinstein has denied the allegations and said any sexual encounters were consensual.
Lawyers for Weinstein have asked that the trial be moved, perhaps to Suffolk County on Long Island or to Albany County upstate, because intense media scrutiny in New York City would make it impossible for him to get a fair trial there, according to a court filing.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)