After five days of deliberations, the seven men and five women comprising the jury in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial in New York have found the 67-year old movie mogul guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He was acquitted, however, of two counts of predatory sexual assault, the most severe of the charges he was facing. Had he been found guilty of predatory sexual assault, he could have faced life in prison. He’s now facing five to 25 years for the criminal sexual assault conviction and 18 months to four years for the third-degree rape conviction. He was remanded into custody and will remain imprisoned until he’s sentenced on March 11.
The verdict comes after six women testified that he had sexually assaulted them. Weinstein was facing criminal charges in connection with two of them; the rest, including actor Annabella Sciorra, were allowed to testify to help the prosecution establish a pattern of behavior. We’ve been following the trial closely here.
The criminal charges involved a former production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, and a former actor, Jessica Mann. Haleyi accused Weinstein of forcibly performing oral sex on her at his apartment in 2006, while Mann alleged that he raped her at a hotel in 2013. Weinstein claims he is innocent of the charges, and that all sexual encounters were consensual. As a sign of the consensual nature of the relationship, his defense team sought to emphasize how Haleyi and Mann continued to see Weinstein and ask him for favors following their alleged assaults.
In its closing statement, the prosecution countered that narrative by focusing on the power Weinstein had. “The universe is run by [Weinstein] so, therefore, they don’t get to complain when they’re stepped on, spit on, demoralized, and then, yes, raped and abused,” said Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi. “He made sure he can contact the people he was worried about as a little check to make sure one day they wouldn’t walk out of the shadows and call him what he was: an abusive rapist.”
In 2017, reporting on the Miramax and Weinstein Co. head’s history of alleged abuse helped spark the #MeToo movement. More than 100 women have since come forward with allegations against Weinstein. Time’s Up, a legal defense fund founded in the aftermath of the Weinstein bombshells, said in a statement that the verdict “sends a powerful message to the world of just how much progress has been made since the Weinstein Silence Breakers ignited an unstoppable movement.”
“While we celebrate this historic moment, our fight to fix the broken system that has allowed serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein to abuse women in the first place continues,” the statement goes on to say. “Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There’s no going back”
Per the New York Times, Weinstein “appeared unmoved” as the verdict was read. Weinstein’s attorney, Donna Rotunno, said the defense would “absolutely be appealing” the verdict. “Obviously, this is a bittersweet day,” she told reporters, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “We are disappointed. We knew we came in and we were down 35-0 on the day that we started this trial.” Of Weinstein, she added, “Harvey is very strong. Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man. He knows that we will continue to fight for him and knows that this is not over.”
Another Weinstein attorney, Arthur Aidala, said his client was distraught over the verdict. “The words he said over and over again to me is, ‘I’m innocent, I’m innocent, I’m innocent. How could this happen in America?’” he recounted.
In December, Weinstein and the board of his bankrupt film studio settled with more than 30 accusers for $25 million. Weinstein will next face charges of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles. A date for that trial has not been set.