In their closing arguments for the trial of Harvey Weinstein‘s sexual assault case, the former Hollywood producer’s attorneys argued that he was a victim of “overzealous prosecution” and that the trial was actually detrimental to women, as reported by The New York Times.
One lawyer in particular — Donna Rotunno — spoke of the “alternative world” prosecutors were creating, in which women didn’t have agency over their decisions or their actions. She said they were writing a narrative that wove “a sinister tale” that portrayed Weinstein as monstrous and his alleged victims as passive participants in their own lives.
“They are creating a universe in which they’re stripping adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility,” she said.
Rotunno continued to vilify the prosecution’s depiction of women and their ability to control their own destinies. She pointed to one witness in particular — actress Jessica Mann — who would contact Weinstein every time she got a new number to ensure he knew how to reach her.
Rotunno went on, saying these actions did not constitute rape, as the accusers knew exactly what they were doing when Weinstein had sex with them. She also suggested that Miriam Haley, a production assistant who accused the former producer of forcing her to perform oral sex, did what she did to further her career.
Mann and Haley’s testimonies received the most attention from the attorney, as they are the two whose accusations still fall within New York State’s statute of limitations for sexual assault. All in all, six women testified against Weinstein, a move that was allowed by the presiding judge so the prosecutors could establish a pattern of behavior.
Rotunno concluded her closing argument by stating that the relations between Weinstein and the two women shouldn’t be considered rape, as the alleged victims were more than willing to do what was asked of them. This goes against actress Annabella Sciorra’s testimony, which described what New York State considers to be predatory sexual assault — or sexual assault that was aggravated — meaning he forced her and she fought back against him. However, due to the statute of limitations expiring on her case, it could be difficult for the jury to convict on that charge. If they do, Weinstein could be facing a sentence of life in prison.
This trial is seen as a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement that started with the accusation that powerful men — particularly in Hollywood — were coercing women into sexual encounters in order to protect their careers. The movement gained momentum when Weinstein’s accusers came forward and prompted many others to corroborate the allegations.
The prosecution’s closing arguments are set to take place on Friday. The jury’s deliberations are scheduled to begin the following Tuesday, February 18.