Harvey Weinstein's request to have his trial judge removed has been rejected, after the judge threatened him with jail time over using his mobile phone in court.
Harvey Weinstein's request to have his trial judge removed has been rejected.
The 67-year-old disgraced producer has been in court this week ahead of his trial in Manhattan on five counts pertaining to sexual assault, including two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape and one count of criminal sex act.
During proceedings on Tuesday (07.01.20), Weinstein was told several times by Judge James Burke to stop using his phone, and threatened the movie mogul with jail time if he didn't put down his cell.
On Wednesday (08.01.20), Weinstein's legal team asked the judge to recuse himself over his remarks, but on Thursday (09.01.20), the defence team had their request rejected.
Burke told the court: ''All I meant to do was scare him enough for him to discontinue use of his phones. I never actually meant that I was going to put your client in jail for life.''
The judge insisted that Weinstein ''was noncompliant and defiant and challenging to the court officers when asked to put away his phones'', but reiterated multiple times that he has not made up his mind on the charges against the producer.
He added: ''I certainly don't know what the evidence is likely to be or how it's likely to be received by the jury. Ironically, I was concerned that Mr. Weinstein was getting better treatment and more chances than other defendants.''
In Burke's original comments, he suggested he would place Weinstein behind bars ''for the rest of [his] life'' over the use of his phone within the courtroom.
He said: ''Mr. Weinstein, I could not implore you more to not answer the following question: is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of an order? Is it?''
Weinstein's team branded the comments ''prejudicial and inflammatory'' and argued the rebuke reflected the ''court's animus'' toward their client.
A letter submitted by the lawyers said: ''These comments reflect the Court's animus towards the Defendant and have created a situation in which the Court's 'impartiality might reasonably by questioned,' in violation of New York State's Rules of Judicial Conduct.
''Either the Court was suggesting that an appropriate sanction for use of a cell phone in court was life in prison, or the Court was suggesting that Mr. Weinstein is guilty, would surely be convicted, and that the Court already knew that it intended to sentence him to life in prison.''
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