The judge in Harvey Weinstein’s trial threatened to jail the movie producer Tuesday for his repeated use of his cell phone during court.
At the beginning of court proceedings in New York, Judge James Burke raised his voice and reprimanded Weinstein and his defense team, specifically Arthur Aidala, for Weinstein’s use of his cell phones.
“He was calling and texting a minute ago,” Burke said to the defense team.
Weinstein said, “I’m sorry” and hung his head at one point. Donna Rotunno, another defense attorney, said she was not aware.
“He was aware,” the judge replied.
Burke said this was an “ongoing issue” and referenced warnings at previous hearings. He said he warned Aidala explicitly in “somewhat unrefined terms” about Weinstein’s cell phone. Finally, he said that if Weinstein uses his cell phone in court one more time he will be taken into custody.
“Mr. Aidala, this is on you if he blows it,” Burke said. “I am pointing my finger at you.”
When Aidala apologized on behalf of Weinstein, Burke said, “I’m not looking for apologies, I’m looking for compliance.”
Before the hearing began, two court officers at different times told Weinstein to stop using his phone several times.
The hearing came a day into the start of his New York trial on sexual assault charges for allegedly raping and sexually assaulting two women. In addition, Los Angeles prosecutors on Monday charged Weinstein with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents in 2013.
In a statement, Weinstein’s spokesman, Juda Engelmayer said the phone use was a misunderstanding and blamed a bailiff for telling the judge.
“The use of his phone prior to the start of the proceeding, before the judge walked in, and from the gallery, was due to the (misunderstanding) of the judge’s requirement by Mr. Weinstein’s team,” Engelmayer said.
“This whole scene could have been avoided had the bailiff, who saw his attorneys handing Mr. Weinstein his phones and reported it to the judge prior to his walking in, would have simply advised him then not to use it.”
Weinstein team asks to delay trial
Tuesday, Aidala argued that the trial should be adjourned because a jury could not be impartial given the new charges in Los Angeles. Aidala asked for additional time during jury questioning to address the jury’s knowledge of the case or to add a question on the jury questionnaire about it.
Burke denied both of those requests and said jurors will be instructed to presume Weinstein’s innocence, as he has not been convicted of any crimes.
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi asked the court to remand Weinstein into custody given the seriousness of the latest charges brought against him in LA. Illuzzi said remanding him would ensure he attends court and suggested he was a flight risk because of his financial means.
The defense, arguing against the remand, said that the warrant hadn’t been put into the national warrant system yet, and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office assured defense attorneys that they won’t act on the warrant until the end of the New York trial.
Burke ordered his clerk to request 120 jurors to the court room to begin the jury selection process before he’d let Aidala enter his request for an adjournment into the record. Burke aims to begin opening statements on January 22.