Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein will face one fewer witness at his Los Angeles trial in October, a judge ruled.
Prosecutors had previously been granted the right to call five ‘prior bad acts’ witnesses to testify against the disgraced producer, in support of five other women whose claims form the basis of the charges in the case.
But one of those witnesses, known in court only as ‘Miss I.’, has since decided she does not want to testify. On Wednesday, prosecutors asked the court’s permission to replace her with another witness. But Judge Lisa Lench denied that request, saying the woman’s testimony would be too similar to the accounts of the other witnesses.
The 70-year-old is facing 11 counts of rape and sexual assault pertaining to the five alleged victims. He is already serving a 23-year sentence after being convicted in New York of rape and sexual assault in February 2020, reports ‘Variety’.
One of the four supporting witnesses is Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, the Italian model and actress who first reported Weinstein to the New York Police Department in 2015. She alleged that Weinstein groped her and tried to stick his hand up her skirt.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office chose not to prosecute Weinstein for that incident, leading to widespread criticism after the Weinstein scandal finally broke two years later. The Los Angeles trial will be her first opportunity to testify about the incident.
Prosecutors had also hoped to call ‘Lauren S.’, a reference to Lauren Sivan, who has reported that Weinstein masturbated in front of her in a New York restaurant. But Lench ruled on Wednesday that her testimony would closely parallel the allegations of three other accusers, and would therefore be superfluous.
The judge denied a request from Weinstein’s lawyers to hold a pre-trial evidentiary hearing with testimony from each of the ‘prior bad acts’ witnesses – none of whom testified before the grand jury. The judge also rejected a defence request for communications between the witnesses and law enforcement, saying the prosecution was not legally obligated to turn over that material.
Weinstein is due back in court on August 29. The trial is set to begin on October 10.