The defense in the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct trial in New York rested its case today without calling the accused ex-Hollywood mogul to the witness stand. Final arguments begin Thursday.
Though the likelihood of speaking in his own defense diminished as the evidence portion of the trial drew to its close over the last few days, at least some small possibility remained before today.
Weinstein team spokesman Juda S. Engelmayer was asked by reporters whether Weinstein himself wanted to testify, as has been speculated, against the wishes of his team, but answered that the reporters should “wait five minutes” as Weinstein huddled with his lawyers behind closed doors.
When both sides, and the jury, returned to the courtroom, Weinstein attorney Damon Cheronis told New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke that the defense rested its case. “The state hasn’t met their burden and he’s not going to testify,” Cheronis said.
Each side has now finished presenting witnesses and evidence, and Burke told the jury that closing arguments would begin Thursday (Wednesday, Lincoln’s Birthday, is a court holiday). Defense attorney Donna Rotunno will kick things off, with lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi giving her closing arguments Friday.
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After the long Presidents Day weekend, the judge will give legal instructions to the jury on Tuesday morning, after which the jury will begin deliberations.
The 67-year-old Weinstein has pleaded not guilty in New York State Supreme Court to five felony charges, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault; If convicted on the latter charge, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
Though four other women have testified during the trial about their rapes and assaults by Weinstein, the charges stem from allegations made by Mann and former Project Runway production assistant Miriam “Mimi” Haley.
Today’s sole testimony concerned the Mann case, with Hollywood agent Thomas “Tommy Richards” Lozano, (the judge and attorneys referred to him alternately by Lozano and his professional name Richards) subpoenaed by Weinstein’s attorneys to testify about an overnight visit to Manhattan that the L.A.-based Richards and his friend Mann made on March 17, 2013.
Though the two friends initially intended to just spend one night in the city – compliments of a client of Richards, who gifted him with two airplane tickets and two tickets to see Broadway’s Wicked – an encounter with Harvey Weinstein changed everything. That much, everyone can agree on.
Mann, who claims that Weinstein first sexually assaulted her the prior year in Los Angeles, has testified that Weinstein checked himself into the same hotel – the DoubleTree in Midtown Manhattan – on the morning of March 18 against her prior knowledge or wishes. She said earlier in the trial that she tearfully pleaded with hotel staff not to let Weinstein check in, her protests so forceful that Weinstein pulled her aside and told her to stop “embarrassing” him.
A desk clerk at the DoubleTree testified earlier in the trial that Mann showed “discontent” as an “imposing” and “intimidating” Weinstein attempted to rush the clerk during his check-in. “From what I recall, they weren’t on the same page.”
After he checked in, Weinstein persuaded Mann to come into his suite, Mann testified, then prevented her from leaving. “I gave up at that point,” she said, occasionally sobbing on the stand. “I undressed. He stood over me until I was completely naked and he told me to lay down on the bed. He went to the bathroom. He came out naked and he got on top of me and that’s when he put himself inside of me.”
After intercourse, Mann said she found a needle in a bathroom waste can that she said Weinstein had apparently used to inject himself with an erectile enhancer.
The two then met Richards and Mann’s friend Talita Maia for a pre-arranged breakfast at the DoubleTree’s lobby cafe.
On the stand today, Richards testified that the breakfast was so uneventful that he has trouble remembering it (including whether or not Maia was there). He said the conversation was “small talk” and that Mann seemed “normal” and showed no signs of distress. He described the “dynamic” between Weinstein and Mann as “friendly.”
During breakfast, when Weinstein invited Mann to spend an extra night at the hotel on his dime, Mann pulled Richards aside to ask if he minded traveling back to L.A. alone. He said he didn’t mind, and Mann decided to stay the extra night (she has testified that she attended the film premiere of August: Osage County with Maia at Weinstein’s invitation that night).
Under cross-examination by lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi, Richards said that on March 17, the night before the breakfast, he had stayed out on the town later than Mann, and had been drinking when he arrived back at the hotel, with Mann already in their shared, separate-beds room.
Illuzzi asked if Richards was “tired” the next morning – suggesting a hangover.
“You enjoyed yourself by drinking a lot the night before?” Illuzzi asked.
After a pause, Richards responded, “What do you mean by a lot?,” prompting laughter in the courtroom. He then acknowledged that he was “tipsy” the night before and “tired” that morning.
Richards also testified that he has never had a falling out with Mann, and, under questioning by the defense said he was not friends with Weinstein, did not hang out with Weinstein and has gotten no professional work from Weinstein.
“Are you here to help Mr. Weinstein?” defense attorney Arthur Aidala asked.
“Not at all,” responded the agent. When asked by Aidala whether testifying today could “help or hurt” his career, the prosecution objected, and the matter went unaddressed.
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