Harvey Weinstein wants the judge overseeing his New York trial for rape and sex assault removed from the case after the producer was threatened with jail for using his cell phone.
Justice James Burke chastised the defendant at the start of the jury selection process on Tuesday (07 Jan 20) after he was caught texting on his mobile, despite having been ordered to turn over his devices to his attorneys.
“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life by texting and violating a court order?” Burke remarked to Weinstein.
The 67 year old, who had previously been scolded for the same issue by the judge, silently bowed his head in response, but now his attorneys have filed a motion demanding Justice Burke step down from the case, claiming his comments displayed a clear bias against Weinstein, reports the New York Post.
In the court request, filed at the end of court proceedings on Wednesday, attorney Arthur Aidala wrote, “We write to seek recusal of your honor from this case based on the prejudicial and inflammatory comments made by the court to Mr. Weinstein yesterday morning, which received widespread press attention.”
Accusing the Manhattan Supreme Court judge of violating the state’s rules on judicial conduct, he continued, “These comments reflect the court’s animus towards the defendant.”
Aidala also used the opportunity to blast the court official for ignoring concerns for his client’s right to a fair trial, having shut down earlier motions for a change of venue, and a trial delay in light of the new sex crime charges filed against Weinstein in Los Angeles earlier this week (06 Jan 20).
A decision has yet to be made.
Weinstein is facing five criminal charges in New York, relating to separate incidents with two different women in 2006 and 2013.
He has pleaded not guilty, but if convicted, he could be ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The trial is expected to last two months, and opening statements are due to begin on 22 January (20).