Harvey Weinstein’s defense lawyer tells jury that prosecutors presented an ‘alternative universe’
Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney Donna Rotunno began her closing argument Thursday by telling jurors this is their chance to do the right thing.
Rotunno told the jurors to use their “New York City common sense” and acquit Harvey Weinstein on all charges because the evidence isn’t there.
He is not the monster he’s been made out to be, she told them.
Rotunno called the prosecution’s narrative an “alternative universe.”
“They’re the producers and they are writing the script,” she said.
She said this case exists in a world where women don’t have the ability to choose what parties they go to and can’t choose whether they write emails to a person across the country.
“What are we doing to women? Women have choices,” Rotunno said to the jury.
Rotunno systematically went through the allegations made by Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, questioning certain testimony, at times reading emails that were entered into evidence earlier in the trial.
She will continue her closing argument Thursday afternoon. Manhattan Supreme Court Judge James Burke did not set a time limit for closing arguments.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts including rape, sexual criminal act and predatory sexual assault. The charges are based on Haley’s testimony that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006 and 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.
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 years-long 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 court room shaking his head as Rotunno read seemingly affectionate emails Jessica Mann wrote to Weinstein and 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 bolster their case.
Mann was the only witness whom prosecutors did not question after defense lawyers finished their cross examination.
Rotunno said both women are looking to get money from the situation.
At one point Rotunno pointed to civil attorney Gloria Allred who was sitting in the court room and said, “She’s not sitting here for her health.”
Allred represents Haley and other women who came forward against Weinstein.
Both Haley and Mann said on the stand that they didn’t have plans to pursue a civil lawsuit against Weinstein.
But Haley conceded that “anything is possible,” and Rotunno read the to jury an old email from Mann in which she wrote that she wanted to pursue civil litigation but the statute of limitations had expired in Los Angeles.
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.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi will give the prosecution’s closing argument Friday.
The jury will begin deliberating on Tuesday, February 18.