Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's trial has been postponed until September, with a judge also barring the public and members of the press from Weinstein's court appearance on Friday, according to a report from The Guardian.
Previously, the trial had been scheduled to begin on June 3 in New York. On Friday, however, Judge James Burke heard from lawyers from both the prosecution and the defense, who each requested that the hearing be held in secret. In response, Burke dismissed reporters and spectators from the Manhattan courtroom.
Burke described the allegations under consideration in the trial as "highly inflammatory" and said that allowing the public access to the courtroom would "result in a violation of both the defendant's right to an impartial jury panel and his right to a fair trial."
"The publication of this information at this time would serve no purpose other than to arouse negative public sentiment toward the defendant," the judge added.
A number of news organizations, on the other hand, are arguing for exactly the opposite, calling Weinstein's case a matter of strong public interest and saying that the U.S. Constitution calls for the public to be able to view and participate in criminal proceedings.
News outlets arguing to allow access also pointed out that the allegations leveled against Weinstein are, in fact, so well-known that making the trial public would not in any way limit the ability of a fair trial to take place.As the press attempted an emergency appeal, the courtroom session continued behind closed doors.
Weinstein's lawyer, Marianne Bertuna, argued it was right to have the hearing in secret.
"We are trying to prevent tainted information from going to the press, only to be instantly released to the public, permanently destroying Mr. Weinstein's constitutional right to choose from a jury of his peers," she said. "Let's limit the damage that's been done here in the midst of an insatiable media frenzy."
Weinstein faces charges of rape and sexual assault in the state of New York, where he allegedly raped a female acquaintance and forced oral sex on another. In all, more than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, though he has since denied these allegations.
Following the closed-door hearing, which lasted about four hours, a new trial date was set. In addition, a motion by defense lawyers to access the phones of one alleged victim was denied, as prosecutors called the material irrelevant. A police detective had reportedly instructed one accuser to remove anything from her phone that she did not want to be seen before handing it over to the authorities.