An interesting piece of the Harvey Weinstein trial has been the inclusion of testimony from an alleged victim who claims she was raped in 1993 or 1994. Prosecutors admit that the incident is beyond the scope of the statute of limitations, and so cannot be charged. But it's being heard by the jury, anyway.
Weinstein Jury Hears Evidence from Alleged Victim from 1994
One of the witnesses in the trial is Annabella Sciorra, an actress from the TV show The Sopranos. She claims that Weinstein forced his way into her apartment in either late 1993 or early 1994, raped her, and then forcibly gave her oral sex.
At the time the criminal charges were filed against Weinstein, though, the applicable statute of limitations had long since expired for these incidents. That means that, even if Ms. Sciorra had been victimized by Weinstein, too much time had passed since the incidents for prosecutors to charge him with a crime.
Nevertheless, the judge in Weinstein's case allowed Ms. Sciorra to testify in his trial.
New York's Predatory Sexual Assault Law
That decision to let Ms. Sciorra testify stems from a somewhat unusual law in New York, where the charges had been filed: New York Penal Code § 130.95.
This statute makes “predatory sexual assault” a crime.
Under the statute, “predatory sexual assault” means committing any of the following New York sexual offenses against more than one person:
- First-degree rape,
- A first-degree sexual act,
- Aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree, or
- Course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree.
Importantly, the usual statute of limitations for sexual offenses in New York does not apply to the alleged offense committed against that other person that is necessary for a charge of predatory sexual assault to be filed. In theory, that other sexual offense can happen at any time in the past in order for it to be used against a defendant facing new charges for a first-degree sex crime in the state.
That's why Ms. Sciorra was allowed to testify. She claims that she was raped by Mr. Weinstein but, even if she was, too much time has passed for prosecutors to file charges over it. Her experience can, however, be used against Mr. Weinstein by tacking it on to the current, more recent, allegations from other women to create a charge for predatory sexual assault.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Thankfully, Pennsylvania does not have a similar statute to New York's predatory sexual assault law. Under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5552(b.1), prosecutors have to file charges for serious sexual offenses within 12 years of the alleged offense, unless the alleged victim was a minor under the age of 18 at the time.