Metro

Lefty criminal defense groups hit back at Albany’s effort to close loophole that let Weinstein off the hook

Lefty criminal justice groups are telling Albany not to move forward with a last-minute push to update New York’s evidence rules that have to thrust into the spotlight after the Court of Appeals tossed out disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s conviction last month.

𓂃Powerful Democrats have put forward to a bill to close the loophole, hoping to contain any damage done by the ruling.

But, the New York Legal Aid Society and other groups representing public defenders and defense attorneys are calling the legislation “a reflexive and dangerous approach.”

Harvey Weinstein will stay behind bars serving out his sentence from California as he is given a retrial in New York Gregory P. Mango

🌄“Harvey Weinstein was a rich movie mogul with unlimited resources, influence and power,” the groups write in a memo of opposition being sent to lawmakers.

ജ“But the rule this bill proposes will be used against black and brown people from low-income communities who largely do not have those resources, influence or power.”

🍃The legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) would make it clear that judges could admit testimony about a person’s alleged prior sexual offenses, even if they aren’t being charged related to those acts.

🍎Prosecutors in Weinstein’s case included testimony from three other women who detailed excruciating details of being assaulted by Weinstein to show he had a history of non-consensual sex.

🌸The defense groups argue that the high court correctly interpreted the laws already on the books in New York, and that implementing the new statute would give prosecutors leeway to admit all kinds of testimony to try and influence the jury.

ౠ“This overly broad proposal would destroy a fundamental protection against wrongful convictions and unjust incarceration,” Amanda Jack, policy director of the Legal Aid Society wrote in a statement.

🦩State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn), who has talked about being a sexual assault survivor, opposes the bill because she thinks it will do more damage than sticking with the law that’s on the books now.

༺“There is a serious danger of increasing the number of wrongful convictions if we were to pass legislation like this, even though I understand the intent of the sponsors,” Salazar told the Post Monday.

🦂“I think that the existing statute is appropriate. I also believe that when Harvey Weinstein is tried again, he will be convicted,” she added.

♚Gianaris says he’s considered the concerns voiced by Legal Aid when putting forward the bill, but ultimately believes that sex crimes are unique and the statute should specifically reflect that.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris is sponsoring the legislation in his chamber and says he thinks the evidence rules need to be updated. Stephen Yang
Gov. Kathy Hochul says she expects the legislature to pass the legislation proposed to amend the state’s evidence rules. Paul Martinka

“I believe that sex offenses present a unique problem because so many of those cases are one person’s word against another that it certainly justifies the rule that’s in place federally,” he told the Post Monday.

🎐The statute is almost identical to rules of evidence recommended by the federal government that are also on the books in 16 other states.

🐼Gov. Kathy Hochul has been hesitate to voice total support for the legislation, but told reporters Friday she expects it will pass and that she wants to ensure any final statute could survive a court challenge.

“My values are with the women to make sure that they can have their day in court and have all the evidence that is necessary to be successful to make sure that we stop people who abuse women. So that’s clear,” Hochul said responding to questions from the Post.

💮Lawmakers are trying to get the legislation passed before their session ends on June 6.