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Even before a jury has been selected, the first day of Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial for rape saw explosions going off inside and outside a Manhattan courtroom this morning.

After an impassioned argument by Deputy District Attorney Joan Illuzi-Orbon, a gag of sorts on Weinstein and his team talking to the media was sought by prosecutors was denied by Justice James Burke with a stern warning to “leave the witnesses alone” outside the court.

“Enough harm has been done to many of these witnesses already,” declared Illuzi-Orbon in reference to the allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment by the once powerful producer and the numerous recent media appearances by lead defense lawyer Donna Rotunno and even interviews given by Weinstein himself.

“To talk about witness in a humiliating and degrading way is not becoming,” added Illuzi-Orbon with implied reference to remarks made by Rotunno about the profession and skills of Sopranos alum Annabella Sciorra, who is set to give testimony in the case in the coming weeks.

“I don’t believe I did anything improper,” said Rotunno forcefully in her own defense of the accusation that she went “on and on quoting from sealed material on public TV,” as Illuzi-Orbon termed it. “Mrs. Illuzzi stands in this courtroom and calls my client a predator and then has the nerve to say I cannot discuss the case …I am doing anything other than representing my client,” the attorney stated.

As this proceeding was on-going on the 15th floor of 100 Centre Street with the likes of Gloria Allred in attendance, outside on street level, Weinstein accusers such as Rosanna Arquette and Rose McGowan were making their voices heard too. “Time’s up on sexual harassment in all work places,” declared Crash actor Arquette in the cold and damp NYC morning. “Time’s up on empty apologies without consequences,” she also told assembled media, onlookers and other accusers. “And time’s up on the pervasive culture of silence that has enabled abusers like Weinstein.

With life behind bars as a real possibility for the much-accused producer if he is found guilty of multiple counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree and one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape, today’s hearing looks likely to set the tone for a trial that is expected now to take two months – and that’s after around two weeks of jury selection set to start the “laborious,” to quote Justice Burke, pre-screening tomorrow is concluded.

Surrounded by an entourage of mainly shaved headed men and his chief defense lawyer Rotunno, Weinstein hobbled into court on a walker just after 9:10 AM ET to sit in the front row. Weinstein had been jeered by a crowd outside as he inched his way into the building earlier. That seemed forgotten as at points in the courtroom, attorneys chatted and even joked with the producer as they awaited the arrival of Justice Burke and the slightly earlier than usual 9:25 AM ET start time.

A presence at almost all the pre-trial hearings since being arrested in May of 2018, like the now imprisoned sexual predator Bill Cosby, Weinstein is not expected to testify in his own defense – despite sporadic conversations with the media in recent weeks.

While Justice Burke did not offer an anticipated ruling on whether cameras would be allowed in his lower Manhattan courtroom and rejected a move to sequester the jury once they are picked, another Roman Candle of sorts was also thrown out there today.

Among potential witnesses like some Homeland Security officials and alleged victims, former long-time Weinstein lawyer David Boies may be called to court, prosecutors unveiled today in a bit of a legal hand grenade.

With clear concern on the part and faces of the defense and fellow Deputy D.A. Meghan Hast by her side, Illuzi-Orbon made sure to strictly drew perimeters about what the once celebrated high profile attorney would be asked to limit the blast radius coming from the well-connected modern-day mandarin. Specifically, if an ex-Black Cube employee is not allowed to testify or their testimony is clipped during the trial the D.A.’s office want Boies to offer insight into the hiring of the investigation firm that worked for Weinstein to apparently intimidate and probe potential victims and journalists – a hiring that a now somewhat contrite Boies handled for the strong arming and deep pocketed Weinstein.

As civil cases, a potential multi-million-dollar settlement and a slew of new probes by the Los Angles D.A. swirl around Weinstein, Justice Burke drew a line and made clear today that he is “refusing to meet with either side” about matters in other jurisdictions.

As LA County D.A. Jackie Lacey looks into eight more Weinstein claims and has scheduled a presser conference today in the City of Angels, that was not what the defense wanted to hear.

“We want to see nothing derail this trial,” pleaded co-counsel Arthur Aidala to the judge in the packed courtroom. “He is not looking for a mistrial, he wants to reach a conclusion to this,” the lawyer insisted, “all of his rights have been trampled upon.”

In a strategy primarily focused on undermining the timelines and intent of the two women at the heart of this criminal case and other prior bad acts witnesses, the defense is also distinctly looking at the event horizon of appeal if Weinstein is found guilty. One manner in which to fast track such an appeal would be for the defense

Otherwise, wasting no time getting into the complexities of the case, the day kicked off with a pitched discussion over evidence and discovery being handed to the defense by the District Attorney’s office and compliance with a new Empire State law on such matters that effects the case.

Specifically, as has been queried before, at question were the cell phones of the unnamed woman in the case and her unredacted medical records

“Many of them are not relevant to the charges at all,” said Deputy D.A. Illuzi-Orbon of such requests and records this morning before Justice Burke. “Moreover judge, this is a sensitive issue for a lot of witnesses,” she stated. “That is not something that the People are going to provide wholesale to the predator in this case,” the prosecutor added, gesturing towards Weinstein on the other side of the courtroom.

Turning the onus on the other side, the center stage Illuzi-Orbon asserted that “the defense has not provided a single piece of discovery to us nor have they provide a witness list. … it is what it is.”

Still, as the temperature rose in the courtroom, xxx simultaneous sought to dampen the tension in a clearly high stakes matter. “It is not the practice of the Manhattan D.A.’s office to ever, ever unnecessary humiliate a defendant,” Illuzi-Orbon noted, promising that certain personal information of Weinstein’s would be kept out of the public eye and record if necessary.

Weinstein himself sat stone faced in reaction to the olive branch of sorts.

After a long session of the lawyers from both sides at the bench conferring with Justice Burke over the jury selection to be drawn from a pool of thousands, the first day of the Weinstein trial concluded around 10:40 AM ET.

Not that the work is entirely done for the day. A box of jury questionnaires will be dropped off to the court later Monday with copies made available to the media by Tuesday. It is estimated by sources close to the court that around 2,000 jury summonses were sent out for this high-profile case in addition to the around 200 sent out usually.

Which means if may be a very long and interesting next two weeks.



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