Harvey Weinstein on leaving Manhattan court on February 13, 2019. - Mary Altaffer / AP / SIPA
Defense had the floor this Thursday. Harvey Weinstein's lawyers have called on jurors to acquit ex-Hollywood mogul accused of sexual assault, even if it is "unpopular", asking them to "ignore media unrest" and the movement # MeToo, after three weeks of trial where the concepts of coercion and consent of its accusers often seemed blurred.
In her final argument of more than four hours, Donna Rotunno, main lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, accused the prosecutors of having created "an alternative universe" in which the producer with more than 80 Oscars attacked young actresses, without providing proof of the guilt of the one who gave birth to the #MeToo movement in spite of himself.
"He was innocent when he walked through this door. He was innocent when the witnesses began to testify. And he's innocent, sitting in front of you now, "she said to the 12 jurors of the Manhattan court. "The media have been zealous, the prosecution has been zealous (...) You are called to make an unpopular decision" and to "ignore the media unrest" around this issue, said the lawyer, who has until 'here obtained the acquittal of almost all the men accused of sexual assault whom she defended. “Never let your emotions cloud your thinking. Use your New York common sense, it will lead you to the right answer, ”she added.
The blurred consent line
The 67-year-old producer, who was the first to discover the talent of Quentin Tarantino and produced successes like Shakespeare in Love or The Artist , risks life imprisonment if convicted. He denies the facts and assures that all these relations were agreed.
Six women have, since January 22, testified for the prosecution, claiming that the ex-Hollywood tycoon, who has become a pariah for public opinion, had sexually assaulted them.
If Harvey Weinstein has been accused of harassment or sexual assault by more than 80 women since October 2017, his lawyer Donna Rotunno reminded the jurors that he was only tried in New York for two alleged assaults: alleged rape on an aspiring actress, Jessica Mann, in 2013, and forced cunnilingus on an ex-production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, in 2006.
In these two cases, the key notion of consent turns out to be more vague than in most sexual assault trials. The two women indeed admitted during the trial to have had with Harvey Weinstein at least one sexual intercourse consented after the alleged assault.
Donna Rotunno repeatedly referred to numerous emails and text messages on Thursday suggesting that the accusers remained on good terms with the producer after their alleged assault. "The truth leaves its mark," said the lawyer, calling on jurors to examine "the evidence in real time" rather than believing in an imaginary world where women have "no free will."
Weinstein smiling as he leaves
In the world of prosecutors, "women are responsible neither for the parties they go to, nor for the men they flirt with ... nor for the jobs they want to be helped to obtain," she said. , implying that the alleged victims had used Harvey Weinstein to advance their careers.
She said she was "sorry for Jessica Mann", who maintained a complicated romantic relationship with Weinstein, by her own admission, several years after her alleged rape, and collapsed during cross-examination by the defense. According to Donna Rotunno, she was manipulated by prosecutors.
The lawyer also reminded the jurors that they could only convict Weinstein if they were certain of his guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". The producer, in a dark suit and tie, was smiling on leaving the court on Thursday, visibly delighted with the argument of Ms. Rotunno.
Deliberations from Tuesday
After the defense, it is the prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon who will deliver her final argument Friday, before the deliberations start on Tuesday. Jurors must reach a unanimous verdict. In case of disagreement, the trial would be canceled. The prosecution could then decide to try a new trial - as was the case for television star Bill Cosby, also accused of sexual assault and convicted after a second trial in April 2018. If he was acquitted in New York or if the trial was canceled, Harvey Weinstein would face further charges for two sexual assaults in Los Angeles, announced in early January.
- Harvey Weinstein