Judge raps Weinstein over phone use as jury selection begins


Harvey Weinstein was threatened with jail Tuesday for apparently using his mobile phone in court as jury selection got underway on day two of the disgraced movie producer's sex crimes trial.

New York judge James Burke scolded the 67-year-old during the morning session for having his phone in his hand in the Manhattan state courtroom.

"It's been an issue every single court day," said an exasperated Burke, who allows phones in the court providing they are out of sight.

"Is this really the way you want to land in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of a court order?" he asked.

Weinstein, appearing pale, sat shaking his head and said "no, no," denying that he had used his phone.

The reprimand came shortly before jury selection got underway in the trial, which opened on Monday.

Burke began the lengthy process of asking dozens of potential jurors about their impartiality after he rejected a plea by Weinstein's defence team to delay proceedings.

Weinstein's lawyers argued that separate sexual misconduct charges in Los Angeles, filed Monday, made it "impossible" to pick a fair and impartial jury for his high-profile New York trial.

Weinstein was slapped with new charges in California just as his much-anticipated rape trial -- which is expected to run until March 6 -- kicked off in New York.

#MeToo movement 
On day two of proceedings, lawyer Arthur Aidala said the timing of the LA indictment was "unprecedented" and "incredibly prejudicial" to Weinstein, who is on trial over predatory sexual assault charges that carry life in prison.

"For a prosecutor, this is Christmas morning," said Aidala.

Burke replied that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and that this would be explained to the jurors.

Some 120 potential jurors were called Tuesday for the first round of pre-selection.

When Burke asked if anyone "had already made up their mind without hearing any evidence" more than ten hands shot up.

Around 40 candidates said they could not be fair and impartial and were excused.

The others were asked to fill out a questionnaire which included questions such as whether they had ever had a relative who had been sexually assaulted.

They were asked to return for further screening on 16 January.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct although the trial is related to just two women because many of the allegations are too old to prosecute.

Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his New York apartment in July 2006.

He is also accused of raping another woman, whose identity is unknown.

Several of his accusers, including actresses Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette, gathered outside the Manhattan court on Monday wielding signs with slogans like "Justice for survivors."

The proceedings are seen as key to the #MeToo sex assault movement and are expected to last up to eight weeks.

Burke said he hoped opening arguments by the prosecution and defense would begin on 22 January.

Weinstein, who walked into court using the aid of a walker for the second day running, is on bail and wearing an electronic bracelet pending the trial's outcome.

In the separate case, LA prosecutors accuse Weinstein of raping a woman in a hotel on 18 February, 2013 and then sexually assaulting another the next day.