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Guilty!

Harvey Weinstein convicted in landmark #MeToo moment

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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NEW YORK, United States (AP) — Harvey Weinstein was convicted yesterday of rape and sexual assault against two women and was immediately led off to jail in handcuffs, sealing his dizzying fall from powerful Hollywood studio boss to archvillain of the #MeToo movement.

The 67-year-old Weinstein had a look of resignation on his face as he heard the verdict that could send him to prison for up to 29 years.

“This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and it is a new day. It is a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said. “Weinstein is a vicious, serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault and trick, humiliate and silence his victims.”

Weinstein's lawyers said they will appeal.

“Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man,” defence attorney Donna Rotunno said. “He knows that we will continue to fight for him, and we know that this is not over.” Another of his lawyers, Arthur Aidala, quoted Weinstein telling his legal team: “I'm innocent. I'm innocent. I'm innocent. How could this happen in America?”

The jury of seven men and five women took five days to find Weinstein guilty of raping an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013, and sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in 2006 by forcibly performing oral sex on her.

He was acquitted on the most serious charges, two counts of predatory sexual assault, each carrying a sentence of up to life in prison. Both of those counts hinged on the word of Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein barged into her apartment, raped her and forcibly performed oral sex on her in the mid-1990s.

The sexual assault charge carries up to 25 years in prison, while the third-degree rape count is punishable by up to four years. Sentencing was set for March 11.

Judge James Burke ordered Weinstein taken to jail immediately. Court officers surrounded Weinstein, handcuffed him, and led him out of the courtroom via a side door without the use of the walker he relied on for much of the trial. The judge said he will ask that Weinstein, who had been free on bail since his arrest nearly two years ago, be held in the infirmary, after his lawyers said he needs medical attention following unsuccessful back surgery.

The verdict followed weeks of often harrowing and excruciatingly graphic testimony from a string of accusers who told of rapes, forced oral sex, groping, masturbation, lewd propositions and that's-Hollywood excuses from Weinstein about how the casting couch works.

The conviction was seen as a long-overdue reckoning for Weinstein after years of whispers about his behaviour turned into a torrent of accusations in 2017 that destroyed his career and gave rise to #MeToo, the global movement to encourage women to come forward and hold powerful men accountable for their sexual misconduct.

In addition to the three women he was charged with attacking, three more who said they, too, were attacked by Weinstein testified as part of an effort by prosecutors to show a pattern of brutish behaviour on his part.

“Weinstein with his manipulation, his resources, his attorneys, his publicists and his spies did everything he could to silence [the] survivors,” Vance said after the verdict. He saluted the women who came forward, saying they changed the course of history in the fight against sexual violence and “pulled our justice system into the 21st century”.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes unless they grant permission, as Haleyi and Sciorra did.

The jury signalled its struggles with Sciorra's charges four days into deliberations. On Friday, the jurors sent the judge a note indicating they were deadlocked on those counts but had reached a unanimous verdict on the others. The judge told them to keep on deliberating.

In the case of the unidentified woman he was accused of raping, the jury acquitted Weinstein of first-degree rape, which requires the use of force or the threat of it, and found him guilty of third-degree rape, which involves a lack of consent.

After the verdict, jury foreman Bernard Cody was asked as he left court how the deliberations were for him personally and responded: “Devastating.” He did not elaborate.

While Weinstein did not testify, his lawyers contended that any sexual contact was consensual and that his accusers went to bed with him to get ahead in Hollywood. The defence seized on the fact that the two women he was convicted of attacking stayed in contact with him through warm and even flirty e-mails — and had sex with him — well after he supposedly attacked them.

The hard-charging and phenomenally successful movie executive helped bring to the screen such Oscar winners as Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction, The King's Speech and Shakespeare in Love, and nurtured the careers of celebrated film-makers like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith.

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.

The New York trial was the first criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations against Weinstein from more than 90 women, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, and Uma Thurman. Most of those cases were too old to prosecute.

During the trial, Weinstein regularly trudged into the courthouse stooped and unshaven, using his walker — a far cry from the way he was depicted in court as a burly “Jekyll-and-Hyde” figure whose eyes seemed to turn black with menace when his anger flared.

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

One woman 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 Haleyi testified that she had sex with him two weeks after she was supposedly attacked, while the rape accuser whose name was withheld said she had a sexual encounter with him more than three years afterwards.

Like Haleyi, she sent Weinstein friendly and sometimes flirtatious e-mails, such as “Miss you, big guy” and “I love you, always do. But I hate feeling like a booty call.”


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