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Legal questions loom ahead of movie mogul Weinstein’s sexual assault trial

The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Can someone as notorious in the #MeToo era as Harvey Weinstein get a fair trial in the world’s media capital?

That’s one of the legal questions looming over the sexual assault case against the movie mogul with jury selection scheduled for early next month.

Weinstein’s lawyers want the trial moved from New York City to Long Island or upstate New York — part of the last-minute wrangling that includes efforts by prosecutors to bolster their case with testimony from actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein raped her in the 1990s. Weinstein has denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex.

The maneuvers have the potential to cause further delays in an already fitful prosecution.

Some of the uncertainty could be cleared up Monday, when Weinstein is due to be arraigned on a new indictment, and an appeals court is expected to rule on a defense motion for a change of venue that prosecutors oppose.

Such motions are rarely granted. But defense lawyers argue the court should make an exception in Weinstein’s case, given a “circus-like atmosphere” and “hysteria” fueled by news reports and social media posts. In court papers, they noted that their client’s name was mentioned online on the New York Post’s gossip column Page Six more than 11,000 times.

“It is safe to say that New York City is the least likely place on earth where Mr. Weinstein could receive a fair trial, where jurors could hear evidence, deliberate and render a verdict in an atmosphere free of intimidation from pressure to deliver a result that the politicians, the activists, the celebrities and the media demand,” the lawyers wrote in court papers.

But “the publicity will be suffocating” wherever the case is tried, said Jeffrey Lichtman, a high-profile New York City attorney who is not part of the case.

Lichtman, who represented Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, called the change-of-venue bid misguided because Weinstein, he said, would probably fare better with a jury composed of more “open-minded” Manhattan residents who “might be more sympathetic to the defense that these accusers slept with Harvey with the hope of getting a movie role.”

Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006 — both of which he denies.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all counts. He is free on $1 million bail.Speech

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