Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault and third-degree rape

24 February 2020, 16:45

Hollywood movie director Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of sexual assault. . Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Hollywood movie director Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of sexual assault in a New York court.

Weinstein, 67, was convicted by jurors on two of the five charges he faced - a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third-degree.

But he was acquitted of the most serious charges, predatory sexual assault and first-degree rape.

He has been jailed immediately pending sentencing on 11 March.

Weinstein faces between five and 25 years in prison, the Manhattan District Attorney said, with sentencing on March 11

Rape in the second degree is when the perpetrator engages in sexual intercourse with someone who is incapable of consent.

This can either be because of their age or because they are intoxicated.

It took the jury of seven men and five women a total of five days to reach their verdict.

He has been remanded in immediate custody
He has been remanded in immediate custody. Picture: PA

Weinstein also faces charges in Los Angeles of the alleged rape and sexual assault of two other women, of which he is yet to enter a plea.

He was once considered to be one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, but accusations against him from more than 80 women ushered in the #MeToo era, the global movement to encourage women to come forward and hold powerful men accountable for their sexual misconduct.

The case against the producer was essentially built on three allegations: that he raped an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013, that he forcibly performed oral sex on Ms Haleyi and that he raped and forcibly performed oral sex on Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra in her apartment in the mid-1990s.

Three additional women who said they, too, were attacked by Weinstein also testified as part of an effort by prosecutors to show a pattern of brutish behaviour on his part.

Jurors signalled their struggles with the Sciorra charges four days into deliberations.

On Friday, after reviewing sections of her testimony and related evidence, they sent a note to the judge indicating they were deadlocked on the counts but had reached a unanimous verdict on the others.

After some debate in the courtroom, the judge ordered jurors to keep deliberating.

While Weinstein did not testify, his lawyers contended that any sexual contact was consensual.

The defence seized on the fact that two of the women central to the case stayed in contact with Weinstein through warm and even flirty emails - and had sex with him - well after he supposedly attacked them.

Weinstein now faces charges in Los Angeles.

In that case, announced just as the New York trial was getting under way on January 6, authorities allege Weinstein raped one woman and sexually assaulted another on back-to-back nights during Oscars week in 2013.

One of those women testified as a supporting witness at the New York trial.

Donna Rotunno was Weinstein's defence attorney
Donna Rotunno was Weinstein's defence attorney. Picture: PA

During the trial, Weinstein regularly trudged into the courthouse stooped and unshaven, using a walker after recently undergoing back surgery.

Many of Weinstein's accusers described him as a "Jekyll and Hyde" character who could be incredibly charming at first, making jokes and showing interest in using his immense power to help their careers.

But that was an act, they said, meant to gain their trust and get them to a place - often a hotel room or an apartment - where he could violate them.

"If he heard the word 'no,' it was like a trigger for him," his rape accuser testified.

Several women testified that Weinstein excused his behaviour as the price for getting ahead in Hollywood.

One said that when she laughed off his advances, he sneered, "You'll never make it in this business. This is how this industry works."

The jury heard lurid testimony that Weinstein injected himself with a needle to get an erection, that his genitals appeared disfigured, that he sent Sciorra a box of chocolate penises and that he once showed up uninvited at her hotel room door in his underwear with a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a video in the other.

The prosecution's task was made more complicated because two of the women at the very centre of the case did not just abandon Weinstein after the alleged encounters: Ms Haleyi testified that she had sex with him two weeks later, while the rape accuser whose name was withheld said she had a sexual encounter with him more than three years afterwards.

Like Ms Haleyi, she sent Weinstein friendly emails, such as "Miss you big guy" and "I love you, always do. But I hate feeling like a booty call."

During cross-examination from Weinstein's lawyers so exhaustive that she broke down in tears on the stand, the woman said she sent him flattering emails and kept seeing him because she was afraid of his unpredictable anger and "I wanted him to believe I wasn't a threat".

To blunt that line of questioning, prosecutors called to the witness stand a forensic psychiatrist who said that most sexual assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers and that they hope what happened to them "is just an aberration".

During closing arguments, Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno charged that Weinstein had become "the target of a cause and a movement" - #MeToo - and asked the jury to ignore "outside forces".

"This is not a popularity contest," she said.

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the jury that Weinstein considered himself such a big shot in Hollywood that he thought he could get away with treating women as "complete disposables".

"The universe is run by me and they don't get to complain when they get stepped on, spit on, demoralised and, yes, raped and abused by me - the king," she said, mimicking Weinstein.

Rumours about Weinstein's behaviour swirled in Hollywood circles for a long time.

Weinstein was arrested and led away in handcuffs in May 2018, seven months after The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed his alleged misconduct in stories that would win the Pulitzer Prize.