NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein is expected on Thursday to urge a New York jury to acquit the former Hollywood producer of sexual assault, as the weeks-long trial against Weinstein comes to a close.
FILE PHOTO: Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013 and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.
During the trial, which began on Jan. 6, Weinstein’s lead attorney, Donna Rotunno, sought to undermine Weinstein’s accusers through aggressive cross-examination.
Rotunno’s closing argument on Thursday is her final opportunity to make her case that the encounters the women had with Weinstein were consensual.
The jury is expected to hear the prosecution’s closing argument on Friday.
Weinstein faces life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charge against him.
The trial is a milestone for the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.
Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
The former producer, who was behind films including “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied any nonconsensual sex.
Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room early in what she called an “extremely degrading” relationship with him. It continued for years and included consensual sex, Mann said.
Rotunno presented her with numerous affectionate emails she sent the producer after the alleged rape, including one in which she wrote, “I love you, always do.”
A former friend of Mann, Brazilian actress Talita Maia, testified for the defense under subpoena that Mann did not appear distressed after the alleged rape, and that she once called Weinstein her “soulmate.”
Haleyi testified that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in his home in 2006. Some time later, she said, she went to see him in a hotel in an effort to “regain some sort of power.” Weinstein pulled her onto a bed and had sex with her, Haleyi testified.
Haleyi said she “went numb” during the encounter and did not want to have sex with Weinstein. Under cross-examination, she said she had not been forced. She acknowledged sending several friendly emails to Weinstein in the following years.
Weinstein’s lawyers have argued that the two women’s interactions with Weinstein after the alleged attacks show that their encounters were consensual.
To bolster the prosecution case, four additional women were called by prosecutors, including actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s.
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool