In de­fense of We­in­stein

For­mer film mogul’s lead at­tor­ney tar­gets prose­cu­tors, me­dia in clos­ing ar­gu­ment.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Laura New­berry and James Queally

YORK — In a scathing clos­ing ar­gu­ment, Har­vey We­in­stein’s lead at­tor­ney attacked prose­cu­tors and the me­dia Thurs­day and im­plored a New York jury to make what she de­scribed as an un­pop­u­lar choice: to ac­quit the for­mer movie mogul of five counts of sex­ual as­sault.

As she stood be­fore the jury of seven men and five women, Donna Ro­tunno asked them to use “New York City com­mon sense” to guide their de­ci­sion-mak­ing and to fo­cus on the ev­i­dence pre­sented at trial rather than the mael­strom of neg­a­tive press We­in­stein re­ceived be­tween the start of the #MeToo move­ment in 2017 and his trial.

“You may have had a gut feel­ing that Har­vey We­in­stein was guilty,” she said. “Throw that gut feel­ing right out the win­dow.”

Ro­tunno’s re­marks came af­ter three weeks of testiNEW mony in the Man­hat­tan crim­i­nal court­house. We­in­stein, 67, faces five felony charges in New York, in­clud­ing rape, crim­i­nal sex­ual as­sault and preda­tory sex­ual as­sault. The pro­ducer faces a min­i­mum of 25 years in prison and could be locked away for the rest of his life if con­victed on the last charge.

The charges stem from ac­cu­sa­tions by Mimi Ha­ley, a for­mer em­ployee of We­in­stein’s pro­duc­tion com­pany who al­leges We­in­stein forcibly per­formed oral sex on her in 2006, and Jes­sica Mann, a for­mer as­pir­ing actress who tes­ti­fied that the

pro­ducer raped her in a New York ho­tel room in 2013.

To earn a con­vic­tion on the preda­tory sex­ual as­sault charge, prose­cu­tors must con­vince ju­rors that We­in­stein as­saulted Ha­ley or Mann, as well as “So­pra­nos” actress Annabella Sciorra.

Three other women also tes­ti­fied that We­in­stein as­saulted them, but their crimes were ei­ther too old to pros­e­cute or hap­pened out­side the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Man­hat­tan district at­tor­ney’s of­fice. One woman’s al­le­ga­tion of an as­sault in a Los Angeles ho­tel led prose­cu­tors to file charges against We­in­stein in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

We­in­stein has de­nied any wrong­do­ing and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

On Thurs­day, Ro­tunno re­peat­edly de­scribed the prose­cu­tion’s case as an “al­ter­nate uni­verse” in which We­in­stein “is a mon­ster, he’s unattrac­tive, he’s over­weight.”

“In their story, they’ve cre­ated a uni­verse that strips adult women of com­mon sense, au­ton­omy and re­spon­si­bil­ity. It’s of­fen­sive, ac­tu­ally,” she said.

She went on: “They’re not re­spon­si­ble for the par­ties they at­tend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to fur­ther their own careers ... the jobs they ask for help to ob­tain.”

The de­fense has rou­tinely seized upon the fact that Ha­ley and Mann kept in con­tact with We­in­stein, and in some cases en­gaged in con­sen­sual sex with him, af­ter the dates of their al­leged as­saults.

Ro­tunno ques­tioned why Ha­ley con­tin­ued to see We­in­stein af­ter the al­leged as­sault in the sum­mer of 2006, and con­tended that it was be­cause they were in a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship, not a pro­fes­sional one, as Ha­ley had told the jury.

“See­ing Har­vey was some­thing that made her happy,” Ro­tunno said.

Ro­tunno and co-coun­sel Da­mon Chero­nis have por­trayed the women as ma­nip­u­la­tive liars who con­trolled their re­la­tion­ships with We­in­stein, flip­ping the nar­ra­tive of the mogul as a predator on its head.

And the at­tor­neys have em­pha­sized the idea that the lines of the women’s re­la­tion­ships with We­in­stein were blurry at best. Dur­ing Mann’s emo­tional days-long tes­ti­mony, Ro­tunno con­fronted the woman with praise-heavy emails and notes she sent the mogul af­ter he al­legedly attacked her.

Mann tes­ti­fied that she sought val­i­da­tion from We­in­stein and that he was a “pseudo-fa­ther” to her.

Ro­tunno ar­gued Thurs­day that Mann had be­come a pawn of the Man­hat­tan district at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

“I feel sorry for Jes­sica Mann. She is a vic­tim of this table,” Ro­tunno said, point­ing to the prose­cu­tors.

The de­fense spoke lit­tle of We­in­stein’s char­ac­ter, other than the fact that he was will­ing to help his ac­cusers when they came to him.

Ac­cord­ing to trauma ex­perts, there are many rea­sons why sex­ual as­sault sur­vivors might stay in con­tact with their abuser. They might be de­pen­dent fi­nan­cially or emo­tion­ally on the people who as­saulted them, they could fear pro­fes­sional or per­sonal re­tal­i­a­tion, or they might blame them­selves for the as­sault.

The We­in­stein case is seen as a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the #MeToo move­ment, which was trig­gered by the cho­rus of women who in 2017 be­gan speak­ing out about the mogul’s al­leged abuses. More than 90 women have pub­licly ac­cused We­in­stein of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

We­in­stein’s fate will soon be in the hands of the jury. Prose­cu­tors are ex­pected to de­liver their clos­ing ar­gu­ments Fri­day.

Dmitriy Shakhnevic­h, a crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney who now teaches at the John Jay Col­lege of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice in Man­hat­tan, said the success of We­in­stein’s de­fense will prob­a­bly rest more on how ju­rors re­ceived Ro­tunno and Chero­nis’ cros­sex­am­i­na­tion of the ac­cusers than any­thing they pre­sented in their di­rect case.

There are enough in­stances of rea­son­able doubt in this case to sway a jury, Shakhnevic­h said, in­clud­ing Sciorra’s in­abil­ity to re­mem­ber the date of the al­leged as­sault or Ha­ley’s and Mann’s con­tin­ued con­tact with We­in­stein af­ter they say they were raped by him.

“You’re gonna try [this case] on the fact that these women are, for some rea­son, not telling the truth. Maybe even in­vol­un­tar­ily not telling the truth,” he said, re­fer­ring to the tes­ti­mony by psy­chol­o­gist and mem­ory ex­pert El­iz­a­beth Lof­tus last week.

In her clos­ing ar­gu­ments, Ro­tunno drew on this idea that mem­ory is fal­li­ble. She noted that the case re­lies mainly on the ac­counts of the ac­cusers, whose tes­ti­monies were some­times in­com­plete or con­tra­dicted what they had told in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the past. And she as­serted that their sto­ries were in­flu­enced by me­dia cov­er­age and in­ter­views with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

She also ar­gued that Sciorra might have “changed her mem­o­ries” of her al­leged en­coun­ters with We­in­stein in the early 1990s in a des­per­ate at­tempt to gain at­ten­tion and re­vive her act­ing ca­reer.

“She’s a star. She has new agents. Now she’s the dar­ling of the move­ment of the mo­ment,” Ro­tunno said.

Ro­tunno told ju­rors that they were the last line of de­fense against an “overzeal­ous me­dia, an overzeal­ous prose­cu­tor” that were caught up in the ex­cite­ment of the bur­geon­ing #MeToo move­ment.

“As Har­vey We­in­stein sits here, he sits here an in­no­cent man. He was in­no­cent when the D.A. charged him … he was in­no­cent when each wit­ness took the stand,” she said. “He’s in­no­cent as he sits there right now.”

Alec Tabak New York Daily News

HAR­VEY WE­IN­STEIN leaves court in New York. His lead at­tor­ney im­plored ju­rors to make an un­pop­u­lar choice: to ac­quit the film mogul of sex­ual as­sault.

Stephanie Keith Getty Im­ages

THE CASE against Har­vey We­in­stein is seen as a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the #MeToo move­ment, which was trig­gered by the cho­rus of women who in 2017 be­gan speak­ing out about the movie mogul’s al­leged abuses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.