Harvey Weinstein was a predator who lured women with a hallmark pattern of predation, a prosecutor told jurors Friday during her closing argument.
The movie mogul took advantage of the power dynamic he had over the six women who’ve accused him of sexual assault, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said. He saw these women as “disposable” and never thought they’d come forward, she said.
“It’s Harvey Weinstein everything, witnesses nothing,” she said.
“They were never in his world, they’re never gonna be in his world. They’re never gonna be strong enough, bold enough or brave enough to tell.”
Illuzzi said that’s the “mark of a predator.”
“Isolate them and make them feel like they’re the only one,” she said.
But actress Annabella Sciorra was different, Illuzzi said.
When discussing the alleged rape of Sciorra, Illuzzi brought up an email Weinstein wrote to his publicist about the story when it first came out in 2017.
“This was consensual or deny it,” Weinstein directed the publicist in the email. He also wrote that journalist Ronan Farrow — who had reported extensively on Weinstein and the #MeToo movement — was not truthful.
“I submit to you that’s a confession,” Illuzzi told jurors. Judge James Burke overruled the defense’s objection to the comment.
Illuzzi spoke directly to the jurors, walking back and forth, at times speaking softly, leaning on the jury box and looking at them individually.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts including rape, sexual criminal act and predatory sexual assault. The charges are based on Miriam Haley’s allegation that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006 and Jessica Mann’s allegation that he raped her in 2013 during what she described as an abusive relationship.
Four other women, including 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.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating Tuesday.
The courthouse is closed for the President’s Day holiday Monday.
“Is it a blurred line?”
Illuzzi discussed the definition of consent and said the choices the women made shouldn’t mean they put themselves in situations to be sexually assaulted.
“Is it a blurred line? There are no blurred lines here,” Illuzzi said.
On Thursday defense attorney Donna Rotunno asked the jury, “What are we doing to women? Women have choices.”
Rotunno said prosecutor described a universe where “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.”
Of the alleged forced oral sex described by Haley, Illuzzi asked jurors, “By going to Harvey Weinstein’s home, did she deserve what she got?”
“We view the victims of sex crimes so differently than the crimes committed against people on a regular basis because they are charged with putting themselves in a situation,” she said.
Illuzzi said these women have nothing to gain by testifying.
“Did it look like they were having fun up there?” she said.
Illuzzi reminded jurors that Sciorra revealed her self-injuring habit during her testimony. Sciorra testified that after the alleged assault, she would cut herself and smear her own blood on her wall she was painting red.
“Do you think that’s a career booster,” Illuzzi asked.
Some jurors could be seen at times flipping back through their notebooks and writing.
A pattern of predation
Illuzzi reminded jurors that the women testified they were afraid of Weinstein.
The women testified to a friendly and charming version of Weinstein, but also said that when he was angry his demeanor would change.
Mann testified that Weinstein was like “Jekyll and Hyde,” Illuzzi reminded the jurors.
“Trick and surprise,” was Weinstein’s method of luring the women into the situations, Illuzzi told jurors.
“If you have to trick somebody to be in your control then you don’t, you know you don’t have consent,” Illuzzi said.
Illuzzi showed jurors testimony from Sciorra and Mann in which they both described incidents when Weinstein was angry with them that his eyes went “black.”
Illuzzi told the jurors to think of Mann like the child of an abusive parent who goes to school and says everything is fine.
When discussing each of the women’s stories, Illuzzi frequently reiterated testimony from the prosecution’s expert witness, Dr. Barbara Ziv.
Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist, talked about the falsity of “rape myths” and testified that women blame themselves and often return to their rapists because they know them and they’re ashamed of what happened to them.
The prosecutor discussed testimony from the women that Weinstein made them feel stupid when they fought his advances and belittled them.
“Belittled and stupid people do not complain, they don’t stick up for themselves and they sure as hell don’t complain about their shame in a public place,” Illuzzi said.
Illuzzi finished her closing argument in nearly three hours before the court broke for lunch.
Weinstein’s attorneys spoke to press outside court.
“So, at this point it will be in the jury’s hands,” Rotunno said. “We feel good about where we are. This is a case that should be about evidence, it shouldn’t be about emotion, it shouldn’t be about feelings and it’s not a popularity contest.”