Lawyers of former filmmaker Harvey Weinstein have demanded that the judge in his rape case recuse himself due to the biased treatment of the defendant, CBS News reported on Wednesday.
The lawyers filed an appeal after James Burke, the presiding New York City court judge, made a harsh remark in response to Weinstein using his phone before the trial even began. According to the appeal, Burke threatened Weinstein with life imprisonment for texting.
"Mr. Weinstein, I could not implore you more to not answer the following question: is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of an order? Is it?", Burke said.
Weinstein's lawyers were disappointed at the judge who thought life in prison was an appropriate punishment for using a cell phone and noted that his words were clearly prejudiced and in violation of judicial conduct.
"These comments reflect the Court's animus towards the Defendant and have created a situation in which the Court's 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned', in violation of New York State's Rules of Judicial Conduct. Faced with extreme and unfairly prejudicial negative publicity both pre-trial and now during jury selection, this Court has refused the defendant's requests for additional necessary procedural safeguards."
Weinstein is being accused in New York of allegedly raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013, and sexual harassing another supposed victim in his apartment in NYC back in 2006.
On 6 January, a separate case was opened against Weinstein in Los Angeles, California, where he is being indicted on four criminal charges in total, including rape and harassment.
Since 2017, dozens of Hollywood employees and famous actresses, including Angelina Jolie, Uma Turman, and Jennifer Lawrence, accused Weinstein of sexual assault. Some of the accusations date as far back as 1980.
Weinstein has so far denied all accusations against him, insisting all his sexual relationships were consensual.
If convicted, Weinstein may face a life sentence.