Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and a criminal sexual act, more than two years after allegations against the Hollywood power broker sparked the #MeToo movement, but was acquitted of charges that could have resulted in a life sentence.
As it is, Weinstein, 67, could spend years in prison, a remarkable fall for a man once celebrated and feared in the film industry. While he was found guilty of rape in the third degree, the former movie mogul was acquitted of the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault, and a count of rape in the first degree.
Weinstein heard the verdict without expressing any emotion in an otherwise silent courtroom. He faces a five- to 25-year sentence on the criminal sexual act charge and as long as four years on the rape count.
The trial marked an extraordinary moment in a national reckoning over the abuse and assault of women in the workplace. Much has changed since the New York Times and the New Yorker reported in late 2017 that dozens of women had accused Weinstein of preying on them, unleashing similar claims against other powerful men. The crisis consultancy Temin & Co. puts the current number of Weinstein accusers at 111.
The verdict is “a strong message sent to survivors about the prospects of justice,” saidDeborah Tuerkheimer, who prosecuted sex crimes and domestic violence cases in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which handled the Weinstein case.
It could encourage more victims of sexual assault to pursue that justice in the courtroom. Rape is notoriously underreported, partly because victims fear they won’t be believed and will be retraumatized.
But Weinstein’s conviction “should not be viewed as a statement for or against a movement,” saidLaura Brevetti, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who has defended clients accused of sex crimes. Instead, she said, it is “a clear vindication of the goal that so many have tried to achieve for decades — that a person who has been sexually abused by anyone, especially someone in a position of power or authority, should not remain silent about it, that a victim has the right and channel to report it, and that our judicial system can ultimately bring justice to a victim.”
Read More: Weinstein Lawyer Mocks D.A.’s Case, Urges ‘Courage’ on Jury
Weinstein, who never took the witness stand himself, had been on trial in Manhattan since Jan. 6, charged with forcing oral sex on “Project Runway” assistantMiriam Haley in his SoHo loft in 2006 and raping aspiring actorJessica Mann in a midtown Manhattan hotel in 2013. Prosecutors for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. called several additional witnesses to establish a pattern of predation, including the actor Annabella Sciorra, whose searing account of an assault in her Gramercy Park apartment a quarter century ago was among the trial’s unforgettable moments.
Weinstein’s lawyers came back at them by poking holes in their witnesses’ testimony, invoking affectionate emails and sustained relationships with Weinstein long past the alleged attacks, to paint a picture of consensual sex with mutual benefits. It was the women who were using Weinstein, they told the jury.
In the end, Weinstein’s attorneyDonna Rotunno and her team couldn’t persuade the jury of seven men and five women that the encounters with Haley and Mann were at worst transactional and that the woman is responsible for what happens to her — a go-to defense in sexual assault trials that’s riskier in the #MeToo era.
Lead prosecutorJoan Illuzzi and her colleague Meghan Hast prevailed by arguing that Weinstein was a serial predator who lured victims, hungry for success and vulnerable, into his orbit with promises of mentorship or career-making roles and subjected them to a series of “tests” to see how much he could get away with.
Weinstein still facessexual assault charges in Los Angeles. They were announced the day his New York trial started.
Read More: Weinstein Was a ‘Predator’ With ‘Insurance,’ Prosecutor Says
#MeToo advocates stress that the movement is about more than the Weinstein trial.
“These really brave women have unleashed something that is bigger than anything we could have ever predicted,” saidFatima Goss Graves, the president and chief executive officer of the National Women’s Law Center.
Since the allegations against Weinstein were first widely reported, some 1,400 powerful people have been publicly accused of harassment, abuse or assault, according to Temin, the crisis consultants. Many suffered professional consequences of one kind or another. Workplaces have bolstered their sexual harassment policies. Some of the biggest companies, includingAlphabet Inc.’s Google andWells Fargo & Co., have dropped forced-arbitration clauses for harassment complaints from employment contracts. More than a dozen states have amended or updated workplace harassment laws.
“That public conversation and transformation is much bigger than any one person, even someone who is as powerful as Harvey Weinstein,” Goss Graves said.
The case against Weinstein hinged on whether the panel believed Mann and Haley, who went years without reporting the alleged attacks. Weinstein’s lawyers suggested through questioning that the women had “re-labeled” consensual encounters as assaults long after the fact, in the wake of the news reports that set off #MeToo. They pointed to evidence that Mann may have continued to have sexual encounters with Weinstein into late 2016, more than three years after the alleged rape — a behavior typical of victims, according to a forensic psychiatrist who testified for the prosecution.
“Sopranos” star Sciorra was the first accuser to take the stand, testifying that she weighed a little over a hundred pounds in the 1990s and Weinstein well over 200. She told the jurors that he pushed his way into her apartment one night in the winter of 1993-94 and overpowered her, pinning her hands above her head and raping her. When she confronted him a month later, she told the panel, he scoffed at the idea that the encounter wasn’t consensual.
“That’s what all the nice Catholic girls say,” Sciorra said he told her. She testified that he then warned her never to discuss the incident.
“His eyes went black,” Sciorra said, “and I thought he was going to hit me right there.”
The case is People v. Weinstein, 450293/2018, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
- Weinstein Was Jekyll, Hyde, Then Rapist, Witness Tells Jury
- ‘I Think I Was Raped’: Jury Hears Rosie Perez Back Up Sciorra
- Accuser Called Weinstein a ‘Soul Mate,’ Ex-Friend Testifies
- Jessica Mann Is Grilled on Contact After Alleged Rape
- Weinstein’s Dream Jury Is Conservative, Traditional, Skeptical
- A #MeToo Moment Two Years in the Making
— With assistance by Chris Dolmetsch, Jeff Green, Olivia Rockeman, and Olivia Raimonde
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