The Slatest

Why Did Harvey Weinstein Bring a Stack of Books to the Police Station?

Plus: Are there special handcuffs for big guys?

Harvey Weinstein arrives at the police precinct with three books in hand.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images.

Accused rapist and disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein surrendered to police in lower Manhattan on Friday morning. Footage of his arrival shows Weinstein entering the precinct with three books in his arms—one about Elia Kazan, another about Rodgers and Hammerstein, and a third, floppy, leather-bound volume that hasn’t been identified. How many pages might a person get to read while in custody?

Zero. Weinstein’s books were almost certainly props, perhaps to make it seem as though he’s nonchalant about his prosecution. The choice of titles might also be designed to send some kind of message: Elia Kazan was a brilliant but disgraced film director and a “calculating, unfaithful womanizer”; composer Richard Rodgers was known to be sexually aggressive with the women who performed his musicals. Whatever the purpose of his reading material, though, Weinstein would not have had much time to peruse it.

The New York Times reports that Weinstein arrived at the precinct at 7:30 a.m., got fingerprinted, then departed in handcuffs—without his books—about an hour later. From there he was driven to the courthouse, where he was arraigned at 9:25 a.m. and made bail on a cashier’s check for $1 million. Given this timeline, and assuming that Weinstein reads at an average speed, he would have had time to get through no more than about 30 pages of Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution.

Even that might be a stretch. Some criminal defense attorneys say that cops rarely let a person keep a stack of books while in custody. Upon arrival at the precinct, all of a defendant’s personal property would be “vouchered,” either for safekeeping or as evidence against him. Others disagree, saying it’s not uncommon for police to allow someone to read a book or magazine while waiting to be processed, though this may vary from one officer to another.

Some distraction might be nice. Under normal circumstances, a person who surrenders to police can expect to wait 12 to 24 hours before heading off to see a judge. This includes time spent waiting to be transported to the courthouse, as officers don’t tend to make this trip until they have a group of people ready for arraignment. The fact that Weinstein got the “walkthrough” treatment—coming in and out in just two hours—suggests that all arrangements (including the amount of his bail) had been worked out ahead of time by his lawyer and the district attorney’s office.

That means Weinstein likely brought along his stack of books while knowing in advance that he’d be in the express lane, with little time to read. On the other hand, the booking process can end up dragging on, even when the cops intend to rush you through. For instance, the system used to send a person’s fingerprints up to a database in Albany, New York, sometimes freezes up. A technical glitch like this could add up to half a day’s delay.

Bonus Explainer: Do police have jumbo-size handcuffs for use with big guys like Weinstein? Yes, though they’ll often daisy-chain a few pairs of regular handcuffs instead. That’s exactly what authorities did this morning: According to the Times, Weinstein was escorted to the courthouse in three interlinked sets of handcuffs to accommodate his girth.

A regular set of cuffs is about 9 inches long, with cuffs that open out to roughly 8 inches in circumference. Manufacturers supply police departments with a longer (about 1 foot from end to end) and a larger (up to 10 inches in circumference) model, too, though officers tend not to keep these on their belts in normal situations. The jumbo cuffs are more likely to be used in courtroom settings, where a defendant might need sufficient range of motion to sign a document.

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Explainer thanks criminal defense attorney Lance Fletcher and Chris Gill of Peerless Handcuff Co.