Harvey Weinstein Found Guilty In Rape Trial

Former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose many accusers spurred the Me Too era with their public allegations of rampant sexual misconduct against him, was found guilty Monday on two charges of sexual assault.

A jury affirmed after five days of deliberations that Weinstein forced a sexual act on former production assistant Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi in 2006, and that he raped the once-aspiring actor Jessica Mann in 2013. 

However, the panel ― consisting of five women and seven men ― notably found him not guilty on the two most serious charges of predatory sexual assault, which would have carried a maximum penalty of life behind bars.  

Weinstein, 67, will stay in jail until March 11, when he is scheduled to be sentenced. He is now facing up to 25 years for performing a criminal sexual act, and up to four years for rape in the third degree.

Weinstein’s trial represented a milestone in the Me Too era, spanning six weeks of often emotional witness testimony and grueling cross-examination. The disgraced producer pleaded not guilty to five felony charges, stemming from the two incidents involving Haleyi and Mann. 

Several other women also took the stand to demonstrate a pattern of misbehavior, with former “Sopranos” actor Annabella Sciorra providing testimony to bolster the two most serious charges. She maintains that Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s. The jury, however, seemed divided on Sciorra’s assault and ultimately did not convict Weinstein on the two charges linked to her testimony. 

In a statement, more than 20 of the at least 100 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, known as the silence breakers, noted the mixed outcome.

“While it is disappointing that today’s outcome does not deliver the true, full justice that so many women deserve, Harvey Weinstein will now forever be known as a convicted serial predator,” they said. “This conviction would not be possible without the testimony of the courageous women and the many women who have spoken out.”

Due to the complicated nature of the charges against Weinstein, jurors required clarification on how to assess them shortly after convening to begin deliberations last Tuesday. On Wednesday, they appeared to home in on Haleyi’s and Sciorra’s accusations, asking to review materials and testimony.

By Friday, they were still deadlocked on the most serious charges.

Weinstein himself did not take the stand during the trial on advice from his attorneys, although he told reporters outside the courtroom that he would have liked to.

Since October 2017, when a pair of bombshell reports in The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed an array of disturbing accusations against the producer, more than 80 women ― actors Asia Argento, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lupita Nyong’o among their ranks ― came forward accusing him of sexual abuse. 

But statutes of limitations and other factors prevented the vast majority from pursuing legal action.

On the advice of his lawyers, Harvey Weinstein did not testify at his trial in New York on sexual assault charges stemming from accusations by two women, including one who was a former production assistant for his film company. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The New York trial kicked off dramatically on Jan. 6, when prosecutors in Los Angeles announced their own sex crime charges against Weinstein the same day he showed up to court in Manhattan using a walker for his supposed back pain. The very next day, Weinstein managed to outrage New York state Supreme Court Justice James Burke, who presided over the trial, by bringing four cell phones into the courtroom in a flagrant violation of Burke’s no-phone rule.

Testimony in the case was often graphic. At certain points, though, the former mogul appeared to nod off in his seat. 

Asked why, Weinstein merely scoffed and said, “Oh, please.” 

Both of his main accusers, Haleyi and Mann, took the stand. Haleyi said she met Weinstein at a film premiere and later approached him looking for work; he gave her a job through The Weinstein Company, his now-defunct production outfit, working on the reality TV show “Project Runway.” 

Haleyi said it was shortly before a July 2006 trip to Los Angeles, paid for by Weinstein’s company, that he assaulted her. He invited her to his Manhattan townhouse, pulled a tampon from her body and forcibly performed oral sex, she said.

“I just said, ‘No, no, I don’t want this to happen. This is not going to happen,’” she told the court.

Seven years later, Weinstein raped Mann, who told the jury she was still relatively new to Hollywood when she met Weinstein at a Los Angeles party, having been raised in a rural part of Washington state. During an initial meeting, Mann ended up giving Weinstein a massage so that “he wouldn’t have to touch her,” prosecutor Meghan Hast told jurors. The producer then dangled movie roles to keep Mann in his orbit. In March 2013, after she invited him to a breakfast meeting at a hotel where she was staying ― a Doubletree in midtown Manhattan ― he came up to her room, injected himself with an erection medication and raped her.

Jurors were even shown photographs of the disgraced producer’s naked body in order to back up Mann’s descriptions of Weinstein’s “deformed” penis. 

Both women said they continued to communicate with the producer afterward for the sake of their careers. Mann’s experience was particularly challenging for prosecutors, though, because her relationship with Weinstein included some consensual sex, which can make it more difficult to prove a rape accusation in a traditional courtroom setting.

Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon portrayed Weinstein’s contact with his accusers as a way of maintaining control over them, “so that they wouldn’t one day walk out of the shadows and call him exactly what he was: an abusive rapist.”

“He was wrong,” Illuzzi-Orbon said in her closing argument. 

Weinstein’s attorneys, meanwhile, had tried to paint both Haleyi and Mann as liars and unreliable attention-seekers in their cross-examinations.

At one point, Mann broke down in tears after a defense lawyer asked her to read aloud an email she’d sent to an ex-boyfriend describing Weinstein as fatherly, writing that he “always offered to help in ways that my parents didn’t.” The note revealed that Mann had been sexually abused years before she met the producer, at which point she began to sob. Burke adjourned for the day when the witness appeared to have a panic attack.

Outside of the courtroom, the defense whipped up a battle for public opinion. But Weinstein’s sole female attorney, Donna Rotunno, largely sparked outrage for making harsh and unfair judgments about women who are victims of sexual assault. Essentially blaming such victims for making bad choices, she told a New York Times reporter, “I would never put myself in that position,” adding that she “never drank too much” or “put myself in any vulnerable circumstance, ever.” 

At trial, the defense team produced emails Haleyi and Mann each sent Weinstein at various points after they said they were assaulted, attempting to show the relationship between Weinstein and his accusers was genial, even “loving.”

Advocates for sexual assault survivors, however, say it is not uncommon for women to stay in friendly contact with an abuser or to struggle to break off contact, particularly when the abuser holds a position of power over them.

To support their image of Weinstein as a serial abuser, prosecutors called four other women to the stand to share their own stories. 

Sciorra told the courtroom that Weinstein managed to get past her doorman, barge into her New York apartment and rape her in late 1993 or early 1994. 

“I was punching him, I was kicking him, I was trying to get him away from me,” she testified. Actor Rosie Perez backed up her story, recalling a conversation she had with Sciorra shortly after the incident.

Tarale Wulff, a former waitress and aspiring actress, said Weinstein masturbated in front of her in a stairwell at her workplace in 2005.

Lauren Young, who wanted to be a model but was writing a screenplay, said Weinstein pulled a similar stunt in 2012 after pulling down her dress and groping her breasts.

Dawn Dunning, another aspiring actress, said Weinstein once slid his hand under her skirt and put his fingers in her vagina during a 2004 business meeting. 

“This is how the industry works. How do you think other actresses got ahead?” she said Weinstein once told her.

Before being cast out of Hollywood, Weinstein was a prolific film producer with credits including “Shakespeare in Love,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Inglourious Basterds,” among many other titles.

Over the past three years ― with his production company shuttered and his reputation shredded ― he has been forced into a muted life.

In a call with reporters following Monday’s verdict, several of the silence breakers expressed relief and jubilation that Weinstein will likely face most of the rest of his life behind bars. Many of them said they did not expect the jury to find him guilty at all.  

“I am crying because I expected the worst,” model Zoë Brock said, noting how other accused and convicted sexual predators have been impervious to justice and welcomed back into society, such as director Roman Polanski. But Weinstein, she said, is unlikely to get a career comeback “because he’s a convicted rapist” in jail.

“Many of us really braced ourselves for a ‘not guilty’ verdict, so today was a huge victory,” journalist Lauren Sivan said, thanking the jury for “seeing through” Weinstein’s attorneys’ attempts to victim-blame and shame the witnesses.

Others cited additional ways to create change moving forward, such as reforming the criminal justice system — in particular, extending the statute of limitations for sexual assault accusers to report their cases.

In sexual assault trials, it’s important to “find a way that is less traumatizing” for survivors, nonprofit director Louise Godbold said, noting the retraumatization that witnesses experienced for having to retell their stories over and over as well as the constant scrutiny and attacks from Weinstein’s defense lawyers.

“Harvey didn’t have to go through that. How is that fair?” she said.

And in one emotional statement after another, each of the women reflected on the broader impact that the verdict will have on sexual assault survivors everywhere, and how it’s just one step in the long arc of change resulting from the Me Too movement, which has continued to unfold.

“Though we prayed he’d be convicted on all five counts, this is the step in the right direction and gives hope to women that when they report a crime, their voice will be heard,” actor Rosanna Arquette said. “Today, let’s focus on the progress that has been made.”

“This is just a drop in the wave of justice to come for predators and survivors everywhere,” actor Mira Sorvino added.

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.