Prosecutors in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial on Tuesday slammed an op-ed piece written for Newsweek by the ex-mogul’s defense attorney Donna Rotunno, calling the article an attempt at “jury tampering.”
Rotunno’s article, published yesterday, was written as a direct plea to the jury to “do what they know is right” and find Weinstein not guilty based on evidence and testimony presented in the monthlong trial.
Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi asked New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke this morning to sanction Rotunno’s behavior by including an instruction to the jury about the incident and also by remanding Weinstein to custody for his possible involvement.
Illuzzi said “there’s no way Miss Rotunno” wrote the op-ed without Weinstein’s encouragement, knowledge and commission.
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“If this is the conduct that is allowed to persist in this courthouse, Judge, then we are all lost,” Illuzzi said.
Rotunno’s co-counsel Damon Cheronis attempted to swat away Illuzzi’s consternation, telling the judge that the jury had already been instructed not to read or watch any media accounts of the trial.
“Miss Rotunno,” said the judge, “I’d like to hear from you — what were you thinking?”
Rotunno said the op-ed was merely her take on the jury system as a whole and included nothing she hadn’t said in her closing argument to the jury. She also suggested the op-ed was merely a counter-balance to the “media attacks against Mr. Weinstein every single day.”
Rotunno added that “every day” the prosecutors called Weinstein a “predator” and a rapist,” and “that’s not true.”
Countered Illuzzi, “That’s a ridiculous response.” The prosecutor said the op-ed was not a general “academic piece” about the jury system but was specifically about the Weinstein case and written as a direct plea to the jury. She pointed out that “predatory” and “rape” are the words used in the very legal charges against Weinstein.
As for Rotunno’s written hope that the jury do the right thing, Illuzzi said, “We would hope to God that the right thing is to convict this man of the charges he was indicted for.”
The judge did not seem to immediately rule on Illuzzi’s requests for some sort of sanction, but said, “Mr. Weinstein, I would caution against the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut.”
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