At Harvey Weinstein’s trial, a big role for other accusers

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Aggie Kenny

In this courtroom sketch, defendant Harvey Weinstein, far left, listens, as Assistant District Attorney Megan Hast, standing before the bench second from right, gestures while witness Mimi Haleyi, far right, holds a microphone during Haleyi's testimony in Weinstein's sexual misconduct and rape trial, Monday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Manhattan Supreme Court in New York. Supreme Court Judge James Burke, above, is shown seated between two flags. Haleyi testified Monday that weeks after arriving in New York to work for one of his shows, she found herself fighting in vain as the once-revered showbiz honcho pushed her onto a bed and sexually assaulted her, undeterred by her kicks and pleas of, "no, please don't do this, I don't want it." (Aggie Kenny via AP)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – In his former life as a Hollywood big shot, Harvey Weinstein knew the importance of a good supporting role. In his New York City trial, it’s the prosecution’s supporting witnesses who could be a big factor in whether he goes to prison.

While Weinstein is charged in sexual attacks on two women, Manhattan prosecutors are having four more accusers testify about alleged misconduct as part of an effort to portray him as a serial offender.

The same strategy helped convict comedian Bill Cosby at his Pennsylvania molestation retrial in 2018. There, prosecutors brought in five additional accusers, even though Cosby was only charged with sexually assaulting one woman.

“The problem becomes: How is it fair to Weinstein to have the prosecution bring in now six women that are going to testify about these incidents, many of which are beyond the statute of limitations?" said Frank Perrone, a lawyer and former prosecutor who is not involved in the case.

Legal experts said that while New York law greatly limits how much a jury can hear about a defendant’s past, uncharged misbehavior, there are circumstances where it is allowed.

The testimony can’t be used to suggest that Weinstein had a propensity to engage in sex crimes, but can be used to explore things like motive, opportunity, intent and a common scheme or plan.

“It’s very powerful evidence, no doubt about it. That’s why prosecutors want it,” said Matthew Galluzzo, a defense lawyer and former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor who's not involved in Weinstein's case.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi, a former “Project Runway" production assistant, at his Manhattan apartment in 2006. She testified Monday. He's also accused of raping another woman, an aspiring actress, at a hotel in the city in 2013. She'll testify later in the trial.