Weinstein’s lawyer says accusers had a choice in sexual encounters

  • Jan Ransom and Alan Feuer, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-02-14 12:43:09 BdST

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Film producer Harvey Weinstein departs New York Criminal Court during his ongoing sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, February 13, 2020. REUTERS

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein told jurors Thursday that he was the victim of an “overzealous prosecution” and that prosecutors were acting like moviemakers, inventing an alternative world in which women are not responsible for their own behavior.

During a five-hour closing argument, the lawyer, Donna Rotunno, argued that Weinstein’s accusers had chosen to engage in consensual and often transactional relationships with him to advance their own careers.

Rotunno said prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had woven “a sinister tale” during Weinstein’s rape trial, depicting him as a monster and his accusers as innocent, passive victims. But, she asserted, the prosecution lacked the evidence to prove it.

“In their story, they have created a universe that strips adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility,” she said. “In their universe women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they accept, the jobs they ask for help to obtain.”

Weinstein, 67, a former powerhouse producer in Hollywood, has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. Prosecutors will present closing remarks Friday. The jury of seven men and five women will begin deliberating Tuesday.

For a month, Weinstein listened as six women took the stand and testified that he had sexually assaulted them. He declined to testify himself.

He faces charges based on the allegations of only two of his accusers: Jessica Mann, a former actress who testified that he raped her in a midtown Manhattan hotel in 2013, and Miriam Haley, a former production assistant on his show “Project Runway,” who said he forced oral sex on her at his Tribeca apartment in 2006.

Both women acknowledged on cross-examination that they not only had friendly communications with Weinstein after their alleged attacks, but later had consensual sex with him.

The presiding judge, Justice James M. Burke, allowed four other women to testify about their own encounters so that prosecutors can establish a pattern of behavior, even though their allegations are too old to be charged as crimes under New York state law. Actress Annabella Sciorra, for instance, took the stand under the legal theory that her testimony would support the charges of predatory sexual assault, which carry a life sentence.

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