Harvey Weinstein’s attempt to subpoena every last email, text message and direct message exchanged between one of his rape accusers and four of her friends going back 18 years was shot down by a Los Angeles County judge on Monday.
Judge Lisa Lench said the subpoenas were “overbroad” and likely would violate the support witnesses’ right to privacy as the disgraced movie mogul’s California-based serial rape case closes in on its October trial date.
The ruling followed after Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson argued the subpoenas, sent to the friends of Jane Doe 4, would return vast amounts of information irrelevant to the case, including sensitive communications Weinstein has no right to possess.
“I don’t need to give the court examples of what could possibly be in communications between friends over an 18-year period, but I think the court can think of the kind of intimate things that might be discussed between friends that the defense would have no right to know about,” Thompson argued Monday. He said such wide-ranging subpoenas also ran the risk of having a “chilling effect” on witnesses.
Weinstein, now serving a 23-year prison sentence for his 2020 conviction on felony sex crimes in Manhattan, attended the hearing in custody, wearing a brown jail uniform and holding a copy of the book John O’Hara’s Hollywood while seated in a wheelchair.
One of his defense lawyers, Alan Jackson, argued against the court’s eventual ruling, claiming that if Jane Doe 4 had a “plethora of communication” with friends and associates about her personal life and never mentioned her alleged assault, “that in and of itself is relevant and could be exculpatory.”
“So, hypothetically, if a rape victim is raped and doesn’t tell her friends about it, you think that’s exculpatory?” Judge Lench asked.
“It depends on the circumstances,” Jackson said. “If they had other broad communications about other subject matters, about sexual contact, other people they may have had an issue with, and they didn’t say a word about Mr. Weinstein at or near the time, or they talked about Mr. Weinstein or [his company] Miramax and didn’t make a single mention of assault, do I think that’s relevant? One hundred percent, I think that’s relevant,” he said.
Judge Lench disagreed and quashed the four subpoenas. She also killed a fifth subpoena seeking mental health records related to an accuser who’s expected to testify as a so-called “prior bad acts” witness, meaning her allegations against Weinstein didn’t lead to criminal charges, but prosecutors believe her story bolsters their case. The judge said the medical records were “privileged” and not something Weinstein can access through pre-trial discovery.
The judge did not immediately rule on prosecutors’ motion to quash subpoenas sent to Jane Does 1, 2, 4, 5 and yet another “prior bad acts” witness. Prosecutors allege the accusers have a right to deny helping the defense with discovery under the California constitution. Weinstein’s defense said the state law protecting victims, known as Marcy’s law, only allows victims to refuse to comply with discovery requests seeking to learn their location, seeking to harass them, or seeking privileged information, such as communications with doctors and lawyers.
Weinstein, 70, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of sexual assault involving five unidentified victims in the California case. The DA’s office claims he raped three of the women — one of them on two separate occasions a year apart — and sexually assaulted two others during attacks at hotels in and around Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013. Jane Doe 4 alleges Weinstein forced her into oral sex and forcibly raped her between September 2004 and September 2005.