Harvey Weinstein 2020 Rape Conviction Overturn, Explained


New York’s top court on Thursday overturned Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction, the watershed case that sparked Hollywood’s #MeToo movement. 

The 72-year-old has been serving a 23-year sentence on rape and sexual assault charges in an upstate New York correctional facility since February 2020.

Here’s what we know about the landmark decision.

Why was Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction overturned?

In a 4-3 decision, the New York Court of Appeals found that the appointed judge prejudiced the disgraced movie mogul’s case by allowing prosecution to call women who were not part of the case to testify as witnesses.

The court said that the testimony “served no material non-propensity purpose.” It added that the court’s decision to allow Weinstein to be cross-examined, when he had no criminal history, “portrayed [the] defendant in a highly prejudicial light.”

In 2020, Lauren Young, Dawn Dunning, and Tarale Wulff testified about their experiences with Weinstein under a state law that permits testimony on “prior bad acts” to demonstrate behavioral trends.  

The court said Thursday that, “under our system of justice, the accused has a right to be held to account only for the crime charged.” Juda Engelmayer, a spokesperson for Weinstein, told Deadline they are “cautiously excited” about the ruling. “He still has a long road ahead of him because of the Los Angeles case. We are studying the ramifications of the appeal right now.”

Read More: TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers

What does the overturned conviction mean for Harvey Weinstein?

Weinstein was also convicted of sex offenses in Los Angeles in 2022. In that case, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison. 

As a result of Thursday’s verdict, he will not be released from prison. Instead, it’s understood he will be transferred to authorities in California, where his conviction still stands.

What might happen next following the Court of Appeals’ decision?

A defining symbol of Hollywood, Weinstein was accused of using his position to bully, exploit, or coerce women in the film industry into granting him sexual favors. A bombshell 2017 New York Times article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey reported that Weinstein reached “at least eight” financial settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact.

The article inspired the 2022 drama film She Said, based on Kantor and Twohey’s book of the same name in which they recount reporting on the story which propelled swathes of women to come forward with their own accusations. The #MeToo movement became a global phenomenon, with women across all industries coming forward to share their experiences of rape, harassment, and sexual assault. 

In light of Thursday’s decision, Weinstein’s accusers could be expected to take the stand again and retell their stories on the witness stand, Sky News reported. Manhattan prosecutors will decide whether to retry Weinstein.

In a statement emailed to TIME, anti-sexual violence organization RAINN criticized the decision. “Overturning the conviction of Harvey Weinstein is a horrible decision that does not protect due process—it upends justice for the survivors of his crimes,” Scott Berkowitz, RAINN founder and president, said.

“Harvey Weinstein was fairly convicted and deserves to be punished for all his crimes. RAINN urges District Attorney Bragg to immediately commit to retrying him. Our heart also goes out to the survivors who bravely testified against Weinstein and are now seeing that bravery turned into a legal loophole. We stand by you.”

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