We­in­stein lawyer: Prose­cu­tors have a ‘sin­is­ter tale,’ not a case

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Tom Hays, Jennifer Peltz And Michael R. Sisak

NEW YORK — Har­vey We­in­stein’s lawyer told ju­rors Thurs­day that prose­cu­tors in the rape case against him were act­ing like moviemak­ers, con­jur­ing up a world where “women are not re­spon­si­ble” for how they in­ter­act with men.

“In the al­ter­na­tive uni­verse that prose­cu­tors have cre­ated for you, Har­vey We­in­stein is a mon­ster,” lawyer Donna Ro­tunno said in her clos­ing ar­gu­ment.

But, she said, he’s an in­no­cent man re­ly­ing on ju­rors not to be swayed by a “sin­is­ter tale.”

Ro­tunno ar­gued that prose­cu­tors had to come up with a damn­ing story about the once-pow­er­ful movie pro­ducer be­cause they don’t have the ev­i­dence to prove the charges.

“The irony is that they are the pro­duc­ers and they are writ­ing the script,” Ro­tunno said, urg­ing the jury to not buy into “the story they spun where women had no free will.”

“In their uni­verse, women are not re­spon­si­ble for the par­ties they at­tend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to f ur­ther t heir own careers, the ho­tel room in­vi­ta­tions, the plane tick­ets they ac­cept, the jobs they ask for help to ob­tain” or the mes­sages they send, Ro­tunno said.

Wit­nesses tes­ti­fied they were seek­ing a pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with We­in­stein, the pro­ducer of Os­car-win­ning movies such as “Pulp Fic­tion” and “The King’s Speech.”

Ro­tunno dis­missed that as an ex­pe­di­ent ex­cuse.

“If t hey l abel it what it was, we wouldn’t be here,” she told the jury of seven men and five women in a case seen as a wa­ter­shed for the #MeToo move­ment against sex­ual mis­con­duct.

“He was the tar­get of a cause and a move­ment,” Ro­tunno said, ask­ing ju­rors to ig­nore “out­side forces” and weigh the facts.

“This is not a pop­u­lar­ity con­test,” she said.

We­in­stein is charged with rap­ing a woman in a Man­hat­tan ho­tel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a dif­fer­ent woman, Mimi Ha­leyi, in 2006. Other ac­cusers tes­ti­fied as part of a prose­cu­tion ef­fort to show he used the same tac­tics to vic­tim­ize many women over the years.

We­in­stein, 67, did not tes­tify. He has main­tained any sex­ual en­coun­ters were con­sen­sual.

He said he “loved” Ro­tunno’s clos­ing re­marks as he left court Thurs­day.

“I made ‘The King’s Speech.’ It was the Queen’s speech,” We­in­stein quipped.

The jury is sched­uled to hear prose­cu­tors’ clos­ing ar­gu­ment Fri­day. De­lib­er­a­tions are ex­pected to be­gin next week.

In of­ten emo­tional tes­ti­mony, We­in­stein’s ac­cusers said he lured them to ho­tels in New York and Los Angeles on the pre­tense of pro­mot­ing their careers and then sex­u­ally as­saulted them.

The de­fense coun­tered by con­fronting some ac­cusers with warm emails and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions with We­in­stein that con­tin­ued for months or even years af­ter the al­leged at­tacks.

Ro­tunno de­liv­ered her clos­ing ar­gu­ment less than a week af­ter she came un­der fire on so­cial me­dia for telling The New York Times’ pod­cast “The Daily” she’d never been attacked “be­cause I would never put my­self in that po­si­tion.”

MARY ALTAFFER/AP

Har­vey We­in­stein, cen­ter, leaves court Thurs­day with at­tor­neys Donna Ro­tunno, left, and Da­mon Chero­nis. The jury is sched­uled to hear prose­cu­tors’ clos­ing ar­gu­ment Fri­day.

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