UPDATED with Harvey Weinstein reaction: Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape in the third degree and criminal sexual acts in the first degree, bringing his seven-week New York trial to a conviction in the central criminal case of the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein was remanded to custody by New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke pending sentencing on Wednesday, March 11. His defense attorney Donna Rotunno made an unsuccessful last-ditch plea to keep Weinstein free on bail due, in part, to his ill health and pain as a result of an auto accident last summer, but the judge did not grant the request. Weinstein was remanded to a medical unit, likely on Rikers Island.
“But I’m innocent,” Weinstein whispered several times after the verdicts were announced, one of his attorneys later told reporters. The comment from the now-convicted rapist was inaudible to spectators in the courtroom.
Four New York court marshals immediately surrounded Weinstein, seated at the defense table. As many as nine other officers were stationed alongside walls and doors in the Lower Manhattan courtroom as the seemingly stunned former producer was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Weinstein remained immobile throughout the verdict delivery, staring forward toward the judge’s bench.
In a post-verdict press conference, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. called Weinstein “a vicious, serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault, trick, humiliate and silence his victims.” He praised the women who testified as “brave” and “heroic,” saying the accusers, including the trial’s primary complainants Miriam “Mimi” Haley and Jessica Mann, have “changed the course of history.”
“This is the new landscape for sexual assault survivors in America, I believe, and this is a new day,” Vance said at a news conference following the verdict announcement. “It’s a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed. The women who came forward courageously and at great risk made that happen. He’s been found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and will face on that count a state prison sentence of no less than five years and up to 25 years.”
“Rape is rape,” Vance said, whether committed “in a dark alley by a stranger” or by “a man of immense power and privilege.”
Outside the courthouse, defense attorney Arthur Aidala expressed confidence for an appeal, telling reporters that the grounds for an appeal are so strong that “four great appellate judges would overturn this case in five minutes.”
Aidala said Weinstein has been the target of “a calculated campaign” since 2017, “and I think the jury felt that pressure.”
A poll of the jury found unanimity, including on the not guilty verdicts returned for two predatory sexual assault charges involving actress Annabella Sciorra.
The first-degree criminal sexual act conviction stems from allegations by former Project Runway production assistant Haley that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at his Soho apartment in 2006. The guilty verdict could see the Miramax co-creator face up to 25 years in prison, with a minimum of four years.
The third-degree rape count, based on a 2013 rape allegation by Weinstein’s former hairstylist and aspiring actress Mann, could bring up to four years in prison, though probation on that count is possible. A third-degree rape conviction means the jury found Weinstein guilty of sexual intercourse without consent. A first-degree conviction required the use of physical force or the threat of death or physical injury.
Mann, 34, claimed Weinstein raped her on March 18, 2013 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Her case, like that of Haley’s, presented crucial challenges to the prosecution due to the women’s continued and seemingly affectionate contact with Weinstein following their encounters – contact that the defense team used to portray the accusers as mercenary careerists willing to trade sex for Hollywood breaks.
But those challenges were met by the prosecutors, who repeatedly referenced expert testimony indicating that rape victims often maintain contact with their abusers for any number of reasons, including fear and the urge to rationalize away past traumatic events.
Mann provided one of the lengthy trial’s most emotional and dramatic moments when she broke into sobs and left the witness stand during what she described to the judge as a panic attack. Testimony was halted for the day, and she returned to the stand the following morning carrying a squeezable stress ball.
With a combined 29-year maximum sentence, the verdict could see the 67-year-old Weinstein spend the rest of his life in prison. He also faces a sexual misconduct trial in Los Angeles involving two women, one of whom – Lauren Marie Young – testified in New York to bolster the Haley and Mann cases.
The New York jury found Weinstein not guilty on two counts of predatory sexual assault, apparently dismissing or deadlocking on a rape allegation made by actress Annabella Sciorra. In order to convict on the predatory counts, the jury had to find that Weinstein was guilty in the cases of Mann and/or Haley, plus Sciorra.
If the jury had unanimously agreed on either count of the predatory charges, Weinstein could have been sentenced to life in prison.
Asked by Deadline how he read the jury’s verdicts in the charges involving Sciorra, Weinstein attorney Aidala said jurors did not find Sciorra’s allegations “credible beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The criminal sexual assault (against Haley) carries a possible prison sentence of five to 25 years; the third degree rape conviction (in the Mann case) carries a sentence from probation to four years in prison.
Haley, now 42, was a Project Runway production assistant in 2006 when, she says, Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his Soho apartment on a July night in 2006. (Haley’s account of having sex with Weinstein later that month at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel, under duress but not physically forced, did not produce criminal charges.)
Although Sciorra’s rape allegation against Weinstein couldn’t be tried due to exceeding the statute of limitations – she says the incident occurred in her Gramercy Park apartment during the winter of 1993-1994 – New York law allowed her testimony to be used in conjunction with that of Haley and Mann to establish predatory behavior.
Three other women, including Young, testified to their own accounts of sexual misconduct involving Weinstein, as the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office attempted to portray the producer as a longtime abuser who preyed on young woman attempting to gain a foothold in the film industry.
Since deliberations began Feb. 18, jurors repeatedly requested to re-hear testimony and review evidence relating to Sciorra, a possible indication the jury was focusing heavily – and disagreeing – on the predatory sexual abuse charges.
In addition to requesting to re-hear the January 24 testimony of actress Rosie Perez – including her account of a phone call in the early 1990s in which her friend Sciorra spoke of the rape – the jury requested all Sciorra-related emails, including those between Weinstein and his private investigators Black Cube and Guidepost Solutions. The Miramax co-creator hired the companies in 2017 to investigate Sciorra and other women he suspected were co-operating with Ronan Farrow for what turned out to be the journalist’s blockbuster Weinstein exposé in The New Yorker.
Once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers of Oscar-winning fare and and critically adored indie films, Weinstein’s world was blown apart in October 2017 when exposés in The New Yorker and The New York Times reported that scores of women claimed to have been the victims of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
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