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Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein's New York case cry foul over defense lawyer's comments

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Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein's New York case cry foul over defense lawyer's comments
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Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein's New York case cry foul over defense lawyer's comments

2024-05-25 09:39 Last Updated At:09:40

Prosecutors in New York have accused Harvey Weinstein's lead defense lawyer of making public statements intended to intimidate a potential witness ahead of the fallen movie mogul's retrial and asked a judge to take action.

The Manhattan district attorney's office sent a letter to the trial judge Thursday criticizing comments made by lawyer Arthur Aidala outside of court on May 1, urging the judge to instruct the defense team “not to make public statements discussing or disparaging potential witnesses in the future.”

New York's highest court last month threw out Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction, ruling that the trial judge unfairly allowed testimony against him based on allegations that weren’t part of the case. In that landmark #MeToo trial, Weinstein was convicted of rape in the third degree for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013 and of forcing himself on a TV and film production assistant, Miriam Haley, in 2006.

Weinstein, 72, has maintained his innocence.

Speaking to reporters about the case after Weinstein's first court appearance following the decision, Aidala said he believes Haley lied to the jury about her motive in coming forward, which prosecutors rebut. He said his team planned an aggressive cross-examination on the issue “if she dares to come and show her face here.”

Haley, who did not attend the court hearing, had said days earlier she was weighing whether to testify again at a retrial.

Aidala declined to comment Friday.

Assistant District Attorney Nicole Blumberg, in the letter to Justice Curtis Farber, said the defense attorney violated state rules of professional conduct and “knowingly disregarded his professional and ethical obligations.”

"The obvious intent of his statements was to intimidate Ms. Haley and chill her cooperation with the retrial of this case,” Blumberg wrote.

Blumberg asked Farber to remind the defense counsel of their ethical obligations regarding out-of-court statements and direct them to stop making public statements about witnesses “that could materially prejudice the case.”

Weinstein's next court date is Wednesday. At the May 1 hearing, prosecutors asked for a retrial as soon as September. Farber said the trial would take place some time after Labor Day.

Weinstein, who had been serving a 23-year sentence for the Manhattan conviction, was moved from a state prison to city custody after the ruling last month by the state Court of Appeals. He also was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and is still sentenced to 16 years in prison in California.

Haley said last month at a news conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred, that she did not want to go the trauma of testifying again, "but for the sake of keeping going and doing the right thing and because it is what happened, I would consider it.”

Allred declined comment Friday.

Weinstein’s publicist, Juda Engelmayer, claimed Friday that prosecutors have engaged in the same type of out-of-court statements they are complaining about.

“Mr. Weinstein has been dragged through an unfair and unconstitutional trial,” he wrote in an email. “And he and his lawyers will continue to speak out in favor of his innocence.”

The Associated Press does not generally identify people alleging sexual assault unless they consent to be named, as Haley has.

Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed reporting

FILE - Harvey Weinstein appears at Manhattan criminal court for a preliminary hearing on May 1, 2024, in New York. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool, File)

FILE - Harvey Weinstein appears at Manhattan criminal court for a preliminary hearing on May 1, 2024, in New York. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool, File)

FILE - Arthur Aidala, attorney for Harvey Weinstein, speaks to reporters outside the Manhattan Criminal court, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)

FILE - Arthur Aidala, attorney for Harvey Weinstein, speaks to reporters outside the Manhattan Criminal court, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Libyans from rival regions and all walks of life are fed up with the country’s divisions and want political players to end their years-long impasse and agree to hold national elections, a key step to peace in the oil-rich north African country, the U.N. deputy representative said Wednesday.

Stephanie Koury told the U.N. Security Council that she has been meeting political leaders, civil society representatives, academics, women’s groups, military leaders and others in the country’s rival east and west to listen to their views. She said there is consensus that the current “status quo is not sustainable” – and the political process needs to advance toward elections.

Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. In the chaos that followed, the country split, with rival administrations in the east and west backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.

The country’s current political crisis stems from the failure to hold elections on Dec. 24, 2021, and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah — who led a transitional government in the capital of Tripoli — to step down. In response, Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister who was suspended. The east is now governed by Prime Minister Ossama Hammad while the powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter continues to hold sway.

Koury, the top U.N. official in Libya since the resignation of special representative Abdoulaye Bathily in April, said many Libyans she spoke to signaled the importance of a “pact” or agreement that would affirm, among other things, the rival parties’ respect for the outcome of elections. They also expressed deep concern at the country’s divisions and parallel governments, and provided ideas on a roadmap to elections, she said.

“While institutional and political divisions keep deepening, ordinary Libyans long for peace, stability, prosperity and reconciliation,” Koury said. “Resolute and united action to advance a political process is needed by Libyans with the support of the international community.”

In February, Bathily warned the country's feuding political actors that if they didn't urgently form a unified government and move toward elections Libya will slide into “disintegration.”

The three African nations on the council – Sierra Leone, Algeria and Mozambique joined by Guyana – said in a joint statement Wednesday that “the Security Council must remain committed to an inclusive Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process facilitated by the United Nations … for the holding of national elections.”

The four countries called on the rival political players “to move from the entrenched institutional and political positions, resolve their differences, build consensus and facilitate the holding of national election.”

U.S. deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said the United States also continues to firmly support the U.N. political mission’s efforts “to bring Libya closer to unlocking a viable process toward long-overdue elections.”

“Progress toward greater military integration remains key to reaffirming Libyan sovereignty and preventing Libya from becoming enmeshed in regional turmoil,” he said.

Turning to Russia's actions in Libya, Wood told the council the United States recently sanctioned “Russian state-owned enterprise Goznak for producing counterfeit currency globally and printing more than $1 billion worth of counterfeit Libyan currency, which exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges.”

Libya is under a U.N. arms embargo, and Wood said the United States also notes “with particular concern the recent reports of Russian Federation naval vessels unloading military hardware in Libya."

Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Taher El-Sonni, who represents the internationally recognized government in the west, stressed that national reconciliation is the only way to rebuild social cohesion and trust between the rivals, unite the country and pave the way for elections.

“We are tired and fed up from the stalemate and the vicious cycle that we have been going through for decades now,” he said. “We are tired and fed up from being lectured on what to do and what not to do,” and from the Security Council’s inaction.

“We are tired and fed up to use Libya as a proxy for certain countries and regional powers for selfish greedy battles, some of which have colonial ambitions,” El-Sonni said.

He called on the Security Council “to leave Libya alone” and let the people decide their own future and “take their destiny in their own hands.”

In this photo released by the United Nations, Stephanie Koury, on screen, Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs for Libya, briefs the Security Council on the situation in Libya, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, at U.N. headquarters. Koury said Libyans from rival regions and all walks of life are fed up with the country’s divisions and want political players to end their years-long impasse and agree to hold national elections, a key step to peace in the oil-rich north African country. (Manuel Elías/United Nations Photo via AP)

In this photo released by the United Nations, Stephanie Koury, on screen, Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs for Libya, briefs the Security Council on the situation in Libya, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, at U.N. headquarters. Koury said Libyans from rival regions and all walks of life are fed up with the country’s divisions and want political players to end their years-long impasse and agree to hold national elections, a key step to peace in the oil-rich north African country. (Manuel Elías/United Nations Photo via AP)

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