‘He’s innocent’: Weinstein’s last ditch plea
Harvey Weinstein's defence lawyer has delivered a remarkable closing argument while pleading with a New York City jury to acquit the movie mogul of five counts of sexual assault.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman in 2006. A total of six accusers testified as part of a prosecution effort to show he used the same tactics to victimise many others over the years.
In the Manhattan Supreme Court today, Defence lawyer Donna Rotunno asked the jury to use "New York City common sense" to guide their decision-making and to focus on the evidence presented at trial rather than the maelstrom of negative press Weinstein received between the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017 and his trial.
"You may have had a gut feeling that Harvey Weinstein was guilty," she said.
"Throw that gut feeling right out the window."
Ms Rotunno said Weinstein's accusers had "created a universe that strips the adult women of common sense, autonomy, and responsibility".
"It's offensive, actually," she said. "They're not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers... the jobs they ask for help to obtain."
"In this script, a powerful man is the villain and he is so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily."
Ms Rotunno told jurors that they were the last-line of defense against an "overzealous media, an overzealous prosecutor".
"As Harvey Weinstein sits here, he sits here an innocent man. He was innocent when the D.A. charged him … he was innocent when each witness took the stand," she continued.
"He's innocent as he sits there right now."
Ms Rotunno hinged her defence on there being too many inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimony of Weinstein's accusers who took the witness stand to convict her client.
In a podcast interview that aired last week, Ms Rotunno said Weinstein was "well aware of the fact that his life is on the line here" and that he "deserves to have a voice out there."
Weinstein, whose lawyers informed the court on Tuesday that he wouldn't testify, has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.
The jury of seven men and five woman is scheduled to hear the prosecution closing on Friday before getting instructions on the law from Judge James Burke next week and starting deliberations.
In often emotional testimony stretching over three weeks, Weinstein's accusers described in lurid detail how he lured them to hotels in New York and Los Angeles on the pretence of promoting their acting careers before sexually assaulting them. The defence countered on cross-examination by confronting some with warm emails and other communications with Weinstein that continued for months or even years after the alleged attacks.
The jury has already heard about emails in which the victim of the alleged rape wrote to Weinstein afterwards to accept party invitations from him, give him new phone numbers and even express gratitude.
One read: "I feel so fabulous and beautiful, thank you for everything."
The court slso heard the testimony of a friend and former roommate of the same accuser who said she never heard the woman say anything bad about the defendant. Instead, the woman once called Weinstein her "spiritual soulmate," the witness said.
Ms Rotunno's closing argument comes less than a week after she came under fire on social media for a podcast interview in which she blamed victims for being sexually assaulted. Ms Rotunno told The New York Times' "The Daily" she'd never been attacked "because I would never put myself in that position".
In court, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon questioned the timing of the interview and rebuked Ms Rotunno for calling the prosecution's witnesses "liars".
"That was taped a long time ago," Ms Rotunno interrupted, claiming that she hadn't talked to anyone in the media since the case began.
She was later contradicted by a Times spokeswoman, who told reporters the interview was recorded on January 28 - five days after opening statements and the start of testimony.
- With AP