Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer recently sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Niagara Gazette.
The paper reported that Weinstein was transferred last week to an upstate New York prison from New York City’s Rikers Island, where cases are rising swiftly amid conditions that prisoners and people who work there say are dangerous.
Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, confirmed the report to Reuters.
Weinstein is one of two prisoners who tested positive that are being isolated at the maximum security Wende Correctional Facility in near Buffalo, officials told the paper.
The disgraced film mogul, who turned 68 on Thursday, is known behind bars as inmate No. 20B0584.
The prison, six hours by car from Manhattan, was intended as a temporary stop for Weinstein where he was to be evaluated to determine which state prison facility meets his security, medical and mental health and other needs.
Weinstein, convicted February 24 and sentenced last week, had been splitting time between New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex and a Manhattan hospital.
Weinstein left court in an ambulance after the guilty verdict and detoured to Bellevue Hospital, complaining of chest pains and high blood pressure. He later had a stent inserted to unblock an artery. After his sentencing, he returned with more chest pains.
Weinstein, the Oscar-winning producer of “Shakespeare in Love,” was convicted of raping an aspiring actress in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006. His lawyers have said they’ll appeal.
Within hours of Weinstein’s sentencing, prosecutors in Los Angeles announced they were beginning the extradition process to send him there for an arraignment on charges he raped a woman and sexually assaulted another in 2013. That’s now on hold because of the coronavirus crisis that has shuttered courthouses and limited travel.
Reports of his contracting the virus comes as the board overseeing New York City’s jails urged officials to start releasing vulnerable populations and those being held on low-level offenses as the coronavirus outbreak hit the Rikers Island complex and nearby jails — infecting at least 38 people.
“Fewer people in the jails will save lives and minimize transmission among people in custody as well as staff,” Board of Correction interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman wrote in a letter to New York’s criminal justice leaders this weekend. “Failure to drastically reduce the jail population threatens to overwhelm the City jails’ healthcare system as well its basic operations.”
Sherman pushed for the release of more than 2,000 people in custody in New York City jails, including those over 50 years old; those with health conditions such as lung and heart disease; those being held for parole violations, such as missing a curfew; and those serving sentences of less than a year.
Such steps are needed, she said, to stem the tide of COVID-19.