An important pretrial hearing in Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault case played out in secret after a judge ruled Friday that the movie mogul's right to a fair trial outweighed news organizations' arguments for keeping the courtroom open.
Both the prosecution and defense asked that the hearing be held behind closed doors because it focuses on sensitive matters – a prosecution bid to have jurors hear from many other women who say Weinstein violated them.
Judge James Burke in Manhattan said closing the courtroom to the news media and public was "the only means available to avoid the tainting of the jury pool." He also rejected the news organizations' request to unseal documents related to the hearing.
The hearing, Burke said, dealt with material that "is prejudicial to the defendant and is highly inflammatory." He said news coverage would serve no other purpose than to stir negative public sentiment toward Weinstein.
Burke also denied the media organizations' request to delay the hearing so they would have time to appeal. An appellate judge denied a request by the media outlets to immediately halt the proceeding.
The judge said he would reopen the courtroom to discuss procedural matters once the closed-door session was over.