Accused rapist and longtime Democratic Party donor Harvey Weinstein was upbraided by the judge in his New York City trial Tuesday morning just before jury selection for using a cell phone during court proceedings.
Weinstein—who brought two cell phones with him—has apparently been repeatedly warned about violating the rules of the Manhattan Criminal Court which do not allow the use of such electronic devices.
Judge James Burke eventually snapped:
I’m going to ask you something. Do not say anything, sir. But do you want to spend the rest of your life in jail for using a cell phone?
The shocking display of cell phone use and the resulting judicial outburst was first reported by Law&Crime Network’s Jesse Weber:
#HarveyWeinstein – Jesse Weber reports Weinstein was using two cell phones this morning inside the courtroom before the judge entered. The judge was furious – yelled at Weinstein – “Do you want to spend the rest of your life in jail for using a cell phone?!” @jessecordweber pic.twitter.com/KUlLqJrjtv
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) January 7, 2020
“Let me set the scene,” Weber told Law&Crime Network host Aaron Keller. “I was directly behind Harvey Weinstein and I noticed he was using two cell phones—which I thought was strange because nobody is supposed to use their cell phone. Before the judge entered, one of the court officers actually reprimanded Harvey Weinstein and said, ‘Put it away’.”
The minute the judge entered his chambers—the minute he walked into that courtroom; even before he got his robe on—he started yelling at the defense and Harvey Weinstein for using a cell phone. He said this is a repeated violation. Harvey Weinstein tried to speak up in the middle and defend himself. [The judge] said: “Sir, I would encourage you to invoke your right to counsel. Sit down. Don’t say anything more.”
Law&Crime Network host Julie Rendelman also took note of the courtroom contretemps:
#HarveyWeinstein better realize pretty quickly that the future jury will not take kindly to behavior indicating that Weinstein thinks he’s above the law… even when it comes to court room cell phone use. @LawCrimeNetwork @jessecordweber https://t.co/UthWwRPqjO
— Julie Rendelman Esq. (@julie_rendelman) January 7, 2020
Weinstein’s defense attorney Arthur Aidala also reportedly caught some flak over the cellular disruption:
An angry Judge Burke immediately castigated Weinstein and one of lawyers this morning, over his repeated use of a cellphone in the courtroom.
— JOSH RUSSELL (@jruss_jruss) January 7, 2020
The incident occurred during day two of Weinstein’s trial on charges of raping an unnamed woman in 2013 and for allegedly sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.
The impetus behind the #MeToo movement, Weinstein has been accused of raping, sexually assaulting and/or sexually harassing at least 87 separate women over the course of several years.
An additional slate of rape charges were filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors on Monday.
“I want to commend the victims who have come forward and bravely recounted what happened to them. It is my hope that all victims of sexual violence find strength and healing as they move forward,” Lacey said.
After the cell phone incident, Aidala made a bid to briefly pause proceedings over the massive press generated by the surprise Lacey indictments. Judge Burke was not persuaded by the need for that “cooling off” request.
[image via screengrab/Law&Crime Network]