Harvey Weinstein can be questioned in accusers' civil lawsuit, judge rules


FILE PHOTO: Harvey Weinstein sits in a wheelchair during the sentencing following his conviction on sexual assault and rape charges in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. March 11, 2020 in this courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday rejected Harvey Weinstein's request to delay a deposition in a civil lawsuit by women who accused the imprisoned movie producer of sexual abuse and workplace harassment.

Weinstein, 68, had argued that his poor health made giving a deposition "practically impossible," and put him at "severe risk" of self-incrimination because of pending criminal charges in Los Angeles.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, however, said Weinstein did not provide medical support for his health claims, and that it was unclear when Weinstein's constitutional right against self-incrimination might no longer be a concern.

"In balance, plaintiffs have suffered injuries from defendant's conduct, which occurred many years ago, and they are entitled to vindicate their rights efficiently," Hellerstein wrote. "I find that a stay is unnecessary. Whether Weinstein invokes the Fifth Amendment or not is his choice."

Imran Ansari, a lawyer for Weinstein, said in an email that Weinstein's poor health "frustrates" his ability to defend himself, and invoking the Fifth Amendment because of the criminal case could hurt Weinstein's defense in the civil case.

Lawyers for Weinstein's accuser did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The class-action case also accused Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein and their bankrupt Weinstein Co of maintaining a hostile work environment.

In seeking a delay, Weinstein's lawyers said on Nov. 19 that their client suffered from diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, anemia, hypertension and other ailments, though he had not contracted COVID-19.

Weinstein is appealing his February 2020 conviction and 23-year prison term for sexual assault and rape.

He faces 11 felony charges in Los Angeles, including for rape and sexual battery, pending an extradition that is now on hold. Weinstein has denied having nonconsensual sex with anyone.

The case is Geiss et al v Weinstein Co Holdings LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-09554.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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