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Harvey Weinstein Jury Indicates Split on Most Serious Charges as Deliberations Continue

5 minute read

Jurors weighing Harvey Weinstein’s fate indicated Friday they were deadlocked on the most serious charges facing the former movie mogul—two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

But the seven men and five women, who did not say if they had unanimously agreed on rape and sexual assault charges also facing Weinstein, were sent back for more deliberations by the judge in the case. They’ll return Monday for their fifth day of deliberations.

If convicted of rape and sexual assault, but not predatory sexual assault, Weinstein, 67, still could face up to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors, though, have said they want a full, not a partial, verdict, and convicting Weinstein on all charges would be triumphant for the #MeToo movement and for the dozens of women whose claims helped topple the former Hollywood titan.

Many of those claims date back to the 1990s—too far back to have been prosecuted under the statute of limitations. That’s where the charge apparently hanging up the jury—predatory sexual assault—comes in. By having witnesses testify about alleged assaults from long ago, prosecutors hoped to get the longest possible sentence for Weinstein by convincing jurors that he had preyed on women for decades, and was not just guilty of the 2013 and 2006 assaults at the center of this trial.

Key to that effort was the testimony of Emmy-nominated “Sopranos” actor Annabella Sciorra, who has accused Weinstein of raping her in the early 1990s and who was one of the first prosecution witnesses.

On Friday morning—as Weinstein looked on, chewing gum—the jurors watched a reenactment by court aides of Sciorra’s testimony. Sciorra claimed Weinstein pushed his way into her Manhattan apartment and raped her more than 25 years ago after they’d had dinner with other people at a restaurant.

After returning from a lunch break in the afternoon, the jury sent its note to Judge James Burke saying it could not decide on the predatory sexual assault counts. Weinstein showed no emotion as the lawyers on both sides and the judge conferred.

In ordering them to return to deliberations, Burke said: “Any verdict you return on any count, whether guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous.”

The other charges against Weinstein center on allegations made by Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actor who said Weinstein raped her in 2013, and Mimi Haleyi, a former “Project Runway” production assistant, who claimed Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. (Haleyi’s name has also been spelled Haley in some court documents.)

Earlier in the week, the jury listened again to Haleyi’s description of how Weinstein ripped out her tampon in his apartment despite her pleas for him to stop. Haleyi said she repeatedly told Weinstein “no” when he first “lunged” at her and tried to kiss her, but she said he eventually led her to a room, pushed her down on a bed and held her down by her arms. She said she considered screaming and fleeing but decided the “safest thing” was to stop fighting.

Haleyi later testified that she felt “embarrassed” and blamed herself for agreeing to meet with Weinstein about two weeks later at a hotel, where she said she didn’t fight him when they had sex. “He led me onto the bed, and I didn’t resist physically. I just laid there,” she said. “I felt like an idiot, and I felt numb.”

Jurors also requested to hear again the testimony of Sciorra’s friend and fellow actor Rosie Perez, who talked about the moment Sciorra told her she had been raped.

They have asked to see a slideshow presentation by forensic psychiatrist Barbara Ziv, who debunked “rape myths” she said society clings to—that most assaults are committed by strangers, that victims typically scream and try to run away and that they immediately report assaults.

Ziv, who was also an expert witness in comedian Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial, testified as prosecutors sought to undermine defense claims that Weinstein’s accusers have not behaved like women who were terrified of Weinstein or who felt threatened by him.

The first note jurors sent, less than an hour into deliberations Tuesday, showed they might have been confused about some of the charges. They asked for legal definitions on some of the language Burke used in his instructions to them, including “forcible compulsion.”

They’ve sent 11 notes so far, Burke said, but some have been unrelated to evidence. In one memo, they asked to have the courtroom’s windows shut. In another, which prompted laughter in the courtroom from nearly everyone but Weinstein, they wrote: “We are done, judge, for today.”

Since the trial began on Jan. 6, Weinstein’s lawyers have argued the sexual encounters were consensual. In her closing arguments, defense lawyer Donna Rotunno told jurors that prosecutors had concocted for them an “alternative universe” in which Weinstein is a “monster,” but that they didn’t have the evidence or police testimony to back up their case.

“In their universe,” Rotunno said, “women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they accept, the jobs they ask for help to obtain.”

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