Va. judge declines to throw out Rose McGowan drug charge; defense says activist targeted by ‘Weinstein machine’

LEESBURG, Va. — In a county where drug possession charges are generally prosecuted with little public awareness, actress-activist-author Rose McGowan’s Loudoun County case is markedly different.

Monday morning, a Loudoun County District Court judge denied a motion from McGowan’s lawyers to dismiss her felony cocaine possession charges — the motion alleges that McGowan was “targeted” by movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

McGowan was not present in the courtroom. Her lawyers said they expected to reargue the motion in a preliminary hearing March 21.

McGowan was one of the first of dozens of women who have publicly said they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Weinstein.

In January 2017, a plane cleaning crew found McGowan’s wallet next to her seat, after she got off a flight at Dulles International Airport. Inside the wallet were two bags that tested positive for cocaine.

Last month, as WTOP first reported, McGowan’s attorneys filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, claiming the drugs were planted after she exited the plane, perhaps by someone employed by Weinstein.

Defense co-counsel Jessica Carmichael wrote her client should not be prosecuted in Loudoun County, because “there is simply no point in time at which the evidence places Ms McGowan and the cocaine together in the same place.”

“At all times Ms. McGowan has maintained her innocence,” Carmichael wrote. “Unfortunately, Ms. McGowan’s situation is complicated by the Harvey Weinstein machine.”

In Monday’s motions hearing, Carmichael told District Court Judge Deborah Welsh the defense was willing to stipulate to details included in the arrest warrant filed by a detective for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Even if all the information in the police reports is true, she said there is not enough evidence to establish jurisdiction in this case.

However, Carmichael was not able to verbally provide details of why McGowan’s case should be dropped, because prosecutors said they had additional evidence against McGowan.

In addition, Prince William County Assistant commonwealth’s attorney Rebecca Thacher said prosecutors would not agree with allegations in the defense motion.

“We’re not going to stipulate to a motion based on news articles — that would be hearsay,” said Thacher. She, and Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert are trying McGowan, as special prosecutors.

Outside court, Ebert would not elaborate on evidence the prosecution may have.

In the recent defense motion, citing an article in The Guardian, titled “Harvey Weinstein had secret hit list of names to quash sex scandal,” McGowan’s attorneys said she was targeted by the now-disgraced Weinstein.

“The names (including McGowan’s) apparently drawn up by Weinstein himself, were distributed to a team hired by the film producer to suppress claims that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women,” according to the article.

McGowan’s attorneys have offered no independent evidence supporting the article’s allegations. After Monday’s hearing, McGowan’s lawyers declined to say whether they have hired their own investigators to look into Weinstein’s potential involvement in McGowan’s case.

Monday, Welsh told Carmichael and co-counsel James Hundley they can revisit the motion in McGowan’s preliminary hearing March 21, which will determine whether the case should advance to Circuit Court, where all felonies are tried. If convicted, McGowan could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In their motion, McGowan’s attorneys argue the case should either be dismissed or moved to federal court, which has jurisdiction for crimes committed on airplanes in flight.

Prince William County prosecutors are acting as special prosecutors in the case, after Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman recused himself.

Plowman is represented in an ongoing federal civil rights case by Hundley.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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