Harvey Weinstein’s defense rested its case on Tuesday after calling seven witnesses — but without hearing from the movie producer, himself.
The crux of the defense’s case pivoted on tough cross-examination of the six women who have accused him of rape and sexual assault. The seven defense witnesses called over the past few days included a memory expert, former associates of some of the women and a longtime Weinstein pal who said the producer had a “sex addiction.”
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts including rape, sexual criminal act and predatory sexual assault. The charges are based on Miriam Haley’s testimony that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006 and Jessica Mann’s testimony that he raped her in 2013 during what she described as an abusive relationship.
Four other women, including actress Annabella Sciorra, also testified that Weinstein sexually attacked them as prosecutors sought to show that he used his power in the movie industry to prey on young, inexperienced women. Sciorra’s testimony that he raped her in the winter of 1993-1994 is outside of the statute of limitations, but it can be used to support the predatory sexual assault charges, which requires serious sex crimes against at least two victims.
However, Weinstein’s defense attorneys argued that the sexual encounters were consensual. As evidence, they pointed out that both Haley and Mann had sexual encounters with Weinstein after the alleged attacks, and they continued to have friendly contact with him for years afterward.
The women’s testimony highlighted thorny questions around consent and power dynamics at the heart of the #MeToo movement — questions that have rarely, if ever, been tested in a courtroom.
“I know the history of my relationship with him,” Mann said during her cross-examination. “I know it is complicated and different, but it does not change the fact that he raped me.”
The trial featured graphic descriptions about Weinstein’s alleged attacks as well as of his “deformed” naked body. In addition, the women faced sharp cross-examinations from Weinstein’s attorneys attempting to undermine their credibility. At one point, Mann had a panic attack while reading a letter she wrote to a boyfriend about her relationship with Weinstein.
Defense attorney Donna Rotunno will give the defense’s closing argument on Thursday, and Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi will deliver the prosecution’s closing argument on Friday. The jury will then begin deliberating on Tuesday, February 18th.
Once an acclaimed producer of movies such as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction,” Weinstein was accused of a wide range of sexual misconduct in stories published in October 2017 in The New York Times and The New Yorker. A wave of accusations against men abusing their power ensued in what is now known as the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein also faces charges of sexual assault and rape in Los Angeles.