Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney told jurors in her closing argument Thursday that this is their chance to do the right thing.
Donna Rotunno told the jurors to use their “New York City common sense” and acquit Weinstein on all charges because the evidence isn’t there.
“He was a target of a cause and of a movement,” Rotunno said.
“The pressure to win this case in this climate in this city is immense.”
But she told the jurors not to feel sorry for the prosecutors, because they win when justice is done.
Rotunno called the prosecution’s narrative an “alternative universe.”
The prosecutors “are the producers and they are writing the script,” she said.
“In their universe 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,” Rotunno said.
“What are we doing to women? Women have choices,” Rotunno said to the jury.
Rotunno, who spoke for more than four hours, systematically went through the allegations made by all six women in the case, refuting their claims. She questioned certain testimony and at times read aloud emails that were entered into evidence earlier in the trial.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts including rape, sexual criminal act and predatory sexual assault. The charges are based on Miriam Haley’s testimony that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006 and Jessica Mann’s testimony that he raped her in 2013 during what she described as an abusive relationship.
Four other women, including actress Annabella 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.
Rotunno told jurors they don’t even need to think about Sciorra’s story in the deliberation room if they don’t believe Mann or Haley. The charges are written that Sciorra’s allegation is attached to the two predatory sexual assault charges, and in order to convict Weinstein of predatory sexual assault, jurors must first find him guilty of the charges related to Haley or Mann.
Rotunno questioned all the women’s motives, suggesting they testified for the fame or money they might get out of it.
Rotunno said Sciorra had something to gain by coming forward 27 years later.
“She’s the darling of the movement of the minute,” Rotunno said.
At one point, Rotunno pointed to civil attorney Gloria Allred, who was sitting in the courtroom, and said, “She doesn’t sit here for her health.”
Allred represents Haley and other women who came forward with allegations against Weinstein. Another attorney representing Tarale Wulff sat next to Allred.
All six women testified they have no plans to sue Harvey Weinstein.
The trial featured graphic descriptions about Weinstein’s alleged attacks as well as of his “deformed” naked body.
Rotunno told jurors the prosecutors showed them photos of his body “to do nothing more than shame him,” pointing out there was no question of identification in this case.
Keeping in touch after alleged assaults
Pointing out inconsistencies in the testimony of Haley and Mann, Rotunno repeatedly asked jurors how they can reconcile the allegations with the “real-time” communications and records she showed them.
“Of course you have doubt, how could you not,” Rotunno said.
Rotunno said Haley’s allegation of forced oral sex one day “doesn’t make sense” when you consider all the other things she did with Weinstein.
Haley acknowledged having consensual sex with Weinstein in the weeks after the alleged assault in 2006 and keeping in touch with him for years after that.
Rotunno said Mann had a consensual relationship with Weinstein in which she told him at times that she missed him and reached out to give him her new phone numbers several times over the years.
“How do you reconcile this behavior, because you can’t,” Rotunno said.
Mann testified on the stand that her yearslong relationship with Weinstein was abusive.
“I know the history of my relationship with him. I know it is complicated and different but it does not change the fact that he raped me,” Mann testified.
Weinstein sat in the courtroom shaking his head as Rotunno read aloud seemingly affectionate emails Mann wrote to him, and as Rotunno told jurors those emails are “not words you say to your rapist.”
Rotunno asked the jurors why Mann continued to reach out to Weinstein. The defense lawyer answered her own question by saying, “Because he didn’t rape her.”
Some jurors could be seen taking notes at times throughout Rotunno’s closing argument.
Questioning Mann’s hazy memory, Rotunno told jurors that Mann would not commit to specific dates to bolster her story because she knew her testimony in New York could affect the open investigation in Los Angeles.
Weinstein also faces charges of sexual assault and rape in Los Angeles.
“I feel sorry for Jessica Mann, Jessica Mann is a victim of this table,” Rotunno said gesturing to the prosecutors sitting next to her.
Rotunno said the prosecutors used Mann because they didn’t have enough evidence to back up their case.
Mann was the only witness whom prosecutors did not question after defense lawyers finished their cross examination.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi plans to give the prosecution’s closing argument Friday.
Rotunno said Illuzzi will give a strong closing argument, and she told the jurors they have the tools to consider all the facts in the case.
“She has the last word. The last word is a powerful thing.”
The jury is expected to begin deliberating Tuesday, February 18.