New York (AP) - "This process is not a referendum on the MeToo movement," said judge James Burke last week, addressing one of the major challenges in the negotiations with ex-film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
More than 80 women, including well-known actresses such as Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, have accused the 67-year-old of sexual assault. Her allegations sparked the global MeToo movement in 2017 and made Weinstein a symbol of a man who uses his power to abuse women and then silence them.
But the trial in Manhattan, which now begins on Wednesday (January 22) with the opening pleadings, is not about 80 but two cases - and only this, Burke emphasized. An overview of the most important questions in the case observed worldwide:
Hasn't the process started long ago?
He did, but the previous meetings since January 6 were not about the content, but rather about the selection of the jury from twelve judges and six substitute judges. Because they shouldn't be biased, the search for this process, which almost no one is neutral about, was complicated for a long time.
Weinstein's lawyers also had a skirmish with Judge Burke because Weinstein had reprimanded him for using his cell phone without permission: “Is that really how you want to end up in prison for the rest of your life because you sent a text message contrary to the rules ? »Said Burke. The judge rejected a subsequent request by the defense for his removal.
And what happens now?
Starting Wednesday, the opening pleadings will be in full swing for the first time. Chief prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Weinstein's chief lawyer Donna Rotunno will try to win the authority over the matter from the start. In the end - the process should take longer than two months in total - everything depends on whether the jury is convinced of the ex-film mogul's fault. The 67-year-old is accused of rape, criminal sexual acts and predatory sexual assault. He faces life imprisonment.
What are the two cases that are now being negotiated?
It is about the cases of two women who state that Weinstein has sexually abused her. Production assistant Mimi Haleyi says he forced her to have oral sex in his New York apartment in 2006. The second woman has so far remained anonymous. She accuses Weinstein of raping her in a hotel in March 2013.
How can it be that more than 80 women accuse Weinstein of sexual assault - but the trial is only about two cases?
There are several reasons for this. For one thing, the Manhattan trial only includes incidents that happened in New York. Suspected acts, for example in Los Angeles, are out of the question. In addition, many of the New York cases are already time-barred. To do this, women whose allegations meet the legal framework must be willing to take on the immense burden of an internationally recognized process. You must expect Weinstein's defense to publicly portray it as untrustworthy.
For the prosecution, the aim was to find allegations that were as watertight as possible. The prosecutor filed a case because the alleged victim allegedly told someone that he had consented to sex with Weinstein.
Is it clear which strategy the defense will pursue?
In general, Weinstein has always denied the allegations and said that all sexual contact was consensual. Donna Rotunno, who specializes in the defense of men accused of sex crimes, is expected to act aggressively. She will try to raise doubts among the jury that women are really victims of Weinstein.
Rotunno left no doubt about this when it came to the jury selection and also to the industry magazine «Variety»: «Harvey Weinstein was the type who had the keys to the lock that everyone wanted to enter. And people used it and used it and used it, ”she said. This strategy is intended to support emails from the alleged rape victim published by Weinstein, in which the report says, among other things, that she loves Weinstein.
How will the prosecutor proceed?
It will be a major challenge for prosecutors to provide unequivocal evidence about certain sexual allegations, particularly rape. Her trump card could be witnesses who also accuse the ex-film mogul of sexual crimes, but whose cases are not being negotiated. Their statements are intended to disclose a recurring pattern of sexual assault that supports the two cases being negotiated and is intended to convince the jury of their veracity.
Isn't it already clear that Weinstein is guilty anyway?
There have been only a few cases in history in which a defendant was so publicly shown as guilty before the trial. The countless articles with descriptions of dozens of women paint the image of an aggressive man who repeatedly lured young women into hotel rooms with the promise of promoting their careers and wiped out opposition with all his might. The impact of the reporting is also reflected in the number of potential jurors who stated that they were biased in the first few days of the trial and said they could not participate in the process impartially.
But stories that read crushingly in major newspapers are by no means legally binding cases with a guarantee of conviction. There are many possible twists and turns that can affect Harvey Weinstein's trial in one direction or the other. This is another reason why the exit is considered completely open. But no matter what will ultimately be announced in Hall 1530 of the New York Supreme Court, it won't be over for Weinstein. Another charge is already waiting for him in Los Angeles.