Harvey Weinstein angered the judge presiding over his rape trial on Tuesday by breaking the rules that applied to everyone in the courtroom. On Wednesday, he requested a new judge.
In a letter, Weinstein’s attorneys argued that New York State Supreme Court Judge James Burke had demonstrated bias against their client for rebuking him in court. Burke had seen Weinstein using a cell phone, which was in direct conflict with the policy Burke set before the trial began on Monday, which effectively banned cell phones from the courtroom. It quickly emerged that Weinstein had actually brought four phones with him.
Burke told the former Hollywood mogul that he was out of line in no uncertain terms.
“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?” said the peeved judge.
Attorneys for Weinstein said Burke should recuse himself because his widely covered comments were “prejudicial” and “inflammatory,” according to USA Today, which obtained a copy of the letter. They “created a situation in which the Court’s ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned,’ in violation of New York State’s Rules of Judicial Conduct.”
Burke has not yet ruled on the request. Weinstein’s attorneys previously fought to have the trial postponed, arguing that a flurry of media coverage of new sexual misconduct charges brought against him in Los Angeles would be a distraction. They also pushed to have the trial relocated out of Manhattan. Both requests were denied.
Weinstein’s highly anticipated trial on five felony charges is still in the juror selection phase, which is expected to extend into next week.
The former Miramax and Weinstein Company executive is accused of raping two women in separate incidents, one in 2013 and the other in 2006.
Annabella Sciorra, who has said that Weinstein sexually assaulted her at her apartment in the early 1990s, is expected to offer supporting testimony for the prosecution.
If found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.