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Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual assault trial postponed to September

Harvey Weinstein’s trial has been put back to September (Richard Drew/AP)
Harvey Weinstein’s trial has been put back to September (Richard Drew/AP)

Harvey Weinstein’s trial on charges of rape and sexual assault has been postponed until September 9.

A New York judge announced the delay on Friday following a closed-door hearing that focused on trial strategy and potential witnesses.

Weinstein’s trial had been scheduled to begin on June 3.

Sexual Misconduct Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein appeared for a private hearing at the State Supreme Court, in New York (Richard Drew/AP)

The movie mogul is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in his Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting a different woman in 2006.

Prosecutors want Judge James Burke to allow some of Weinstein’s dozens of other accusers to testify in an attempt to show he has a history of violating women.

Weinstein denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

Judge Burke said closing the courtroom to the news media and public was “the only means available to avoid the tainting of the jury pool”.

He also rejected the news organisations’ request to unseal documents related to the hearing.

The judge said the hearing dealt with material that “is prejudicial to the defendant and is highly inflammatory”.

He said news coverage would serve no other purpose than to stir negative public sentiment toward Weinstein.

Judge Burke also denied the media organisations’ request to delay the hearing so they would have time to appeal. An appellate judge denied a request by the media outlets to immediately halt the proceeding.

Judge Burke issued his ruling after prosecutors said it was necessary to close the courtroom, both to protect Weinstein’s right to a fair trial and to shield the identities of accusers whose names and allegations were expected to come up during the hearing.

“We believe it is prudent” to close the court, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said.

Weinstein lawyer Marianne Bertuna argued that news coverage could influence potential jurors and that “the court cannot be complicit with the press in denying the defendant’s right to a fair trial”.

Lawyers for the news organisations said the prosecution and defence arguments did not meet the high legal standard for banning the media and the public.

Weinstein’s case is “a matter of immense and legitimate public interest” and the allegations against him are already widely known, said Robert Balin, a lawyer for the news organisations.

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