What You Should Know About the New Charges Against Harvey Weinstein

Date: 
July 9, 2018

Jennifer Becker is a former sex crimes and child abuse prosecutor and the deputy legal director at Legal Momentum. She says Monday morning’s arraignment is “definitely a big first step for the victims” but cautions that the road to justice could be long.

An indictment is simply a grand jury saying that there is reasonable cause to believe that a defendant committed an offense he’s charged with, Becker tells Broadly. “It’s not a finding of guilt or non-guilt, and it really gives the prosecution permission to move forward to trial on these charges. [Weinstein] will still have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a trial, should he avail himself to his right to a trial, which it sounds like he intends to do.

“It is an early step,” Becker adds. “There is a lot of process that a criminal defendant is owed before trial. There will be some procedure that will have to happen in terms of motions and potential hearings on pieces of evidence before we see a trial, if we see one.”

As Weinstein’s case unfolds, Becker says she’s interested in watching whether it will have any impact on how “fact-finders” understand evidence related to sexual assault. “For many fact-finders, be it judges or juries,” she says, “there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that are widely held in our society about sexual assault, how victims ‘should’ act, even though we know that everyone responds to that trauma differently. It’ll be interesting to see how the #MeToo movement will educate fact-finders to the realities of sexual assault and whether that’ll have an impact on the type of accountability that we see perpetrators face.”

In any case, she continues, the inclusion of such a serious charge like predatory sexual assault speaks volumes. “It definitely sends a powerful message that perpetrators can be held accountable, even sometimes down the road. It also speaks to the power of a movement like the #metoo movement, and speaks to the necessity to have safe and reliable ways to report sexual assault.”