By Tom Hals
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Harvey Weinstein’s day began with expensive coffee and Acqua Panna mineral water at a breakfast meeting with his lawyers in a Four Seasons hotel near Manhattan’s criminal courts.
It was due to end at New York’s violence-plagued Rikers Island jail complex, where the former Hollywood film producer was ordered to await sentencing after a jury found him guilty on Monday of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another.
Weinstein, however, was rerouted for unspecified reasons to Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, which has a special ward for treating jail inmates, and presumably will be moved to Rikers once “he no longer needs to be in a hospital,” his spokesman, Juda Engelmayer, told Reuters.
Other news outlets, including Variety, reported the onetime movie mogul had complained of chest pains or heart palpitations.
His lawyers had asked that Weinstein, 67, be sent to the jail’s North Infirmary Command – two dank buildings that house sick inmates and those with enough notoriety to require protection from their neighbors.
Violence and neglect at the jail have become so entrenched that Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed in 2017 to close it down within a decade. In 2015, federal prosecutors in New York concluded after an investigation that guards routinely abused inmates at the jail, which sits on an island in the East River, beneath the LaGuardia Airport flight path.
Housed partly in the jail’s original hospital building, the North Infirmary Command is not much of a respite, according to people who have worked there.
A lawyer for Weinstein reminded Judge James Burke on Monday of some of her client’s ailments, noting he takes several medications and requires injections in his eyes to forestall blindness. He entered and left the Manhattan court each day leaning on a walker, a remnant, according to his lawyers, of back surgery he had in December.
“It’s not the cleanest,” Malissa Allen, a mental health counselor who has treated inmates at the infirmary, said in an interview. “It’s a very old jail. A lot of people complain about the smell. It has the old basement smell.”
The main building went up in 1932, according to the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the labor union representing the jail’s guards.
Weinstein would likely wear a tan jumpsuit to indicate he has yet to be sentenced, Allen said, with his hearing set for March 11. Sentenced inmates are dressed in green.
Weinstein’s bail was revoked and he was handcuffed shortly after the jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013. He has maintained his innocence and a long appeals battle is likely.
It was not clear in what kind of room or cell Weinstein would be held. There are bunk rooms with up to 40 or so patients, which have beeping hospital machines to monitor vital signs, Allen said. He may end up in a private or semi-private cell, as often happens with inmates who might be threatened by others.
“I would think if you had to be at Rikers Island, you might prefer the infirmary,” Lisa Pelosi, a criminal defense lawyer in New York, said in an interview. “But it is definitely not a pleasant place.”
(Reporting by Tom Hals; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Brendan Pierson and Maria Caspani; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sonya Hepinstall)