Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of sex assault and rape in the third degree but acquitted of more serious charges that could have put him in prison for life, a triumphant but bittersweet moment for the #MeToo movement and for the dozens of women whose claims helped topple the former Hollywood titan.
On the fifth day of deliberations, a Manhattan jury found Weinstein guilty of raping Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actor, in 2013 and of sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi, a former “Project Runway” production assistant, in 2006. In a victory for the defense, Weinstein was acquitted of predatory sexual assault and of first-degree rape involving Mann, the most serious charges he faced.
Weinstein, 67, faces up to 25 years in prison—and a minimum five years—on the criminal sex act conviction, which relates to Haleyi’s allegation that he forcibly performed oral sex on her. Rape in the third degree, related to the assault on Mann, is punishable by up to four years in prison. Sentencing was set for March 11, and Judge James Burke ordered Weinstein held in jail until then.
After the verdicts were read, Weinstein kept repeating that he was innocent, according to one of his lawyers, Arthur Aidala. “All he kept saying is, ‘I’m innocent. But I’m innocent,’” Aidala told NY1. When the jury was dismissed, Weinstein struggled to his feet with the help of court officers and left the courtroom.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. heralded the trial’s outcome and said he was not “dissatisfied” that prosecutors were not able to secure convictions on all counts. “This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America,” he said at a news conference after the verdict. “This is a new day.”
Tina Tchen, the president and CEO of Time’s Up, said the jury’s decision marked a “new era of justice.” “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,” Tchen said. “Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There’s no going back.”
The verdict by the jury—made up of seven men and five women—comes after weeks of emotional testimony by multiple accusers who helped paint Weinstein as a sexual predator. Mann, 34, gave some of the most chilling testimony of the trial when she described to jurors how Weinstein raped her after she told him she was in a new relationship with an actor.
“He was screaming, ‘You owe me. You owe me one more time,’ as he was dragging me into the bedroom,” Mann said, weeping uncontrollably at times.
Mann said she begged Weinstein to stop, but he violently tore off her pants, leaving scratch marks down her legs. Mann said she crawled into the fetal position on the bed and sobbed but that Weinstein raped her anyway. Afterward, Mann said she crawled to the bathroom on her hands and knees. She said Weinstein later apologized, saying: “I just find you so attractive. I couldn’t resist.”
In convicting Weinstein of third-degree rather than first-degree rape in that incident, jurors concluded that while the encounter was non-consensual, it did not involve physical compulsion, as required for a first-degree rape conviction.
Mann—who moved to Los Angeles from a small town in Washington state to pursue acting—said she initially thought meeting Weinstein at a Hollywood Hills party was a “blessing.” She said she decided to enter into a “real relationship” with him after she said he forced oral sex on her.
While Mann claimed the relationship was abusive, Weinstein’s defense team argued that was not true, showing the jury complimentary emails she often sent to him and calling to the stand Mann’s former friend who testified that Mann was in a willing, romantic relationship with Weinstein.
Defense attorney Donna Rotunno said Mann manipulated and used Weinstein for his power and connections in Hollywood. “You were lying to him every single time you engaged in sexual activity that you did not want,” she said.
Weinstein’s trial centered on allegations made by Mann and Haleyi, whose name also appears as Haley in some court documents. She said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his apartment, ripping out her tampon during encounter on July 10, 2006. 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” for her to do was to stop fighting.
Haleyi also testified about how 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.”
While dozens of other women had accused Weinstein of sexual assault, many of those claims dated too far back to be prosecuted under statute of limitation laws. However, four of the accusers, including Emmy-nominated “Sopranos” actor Annabella Sciorra, were still allowed to testify about alleged assaults dating back to the 1990s to bolster the prosecution’s argument that Weinstein was a repeat sexual predator. Sciorra’s account was key to prosecutors’ attempts to convict Weinstein on two counts of predatory sexual assault.
On Friday, jurors had suggested they were deadlocked on those counts, but the judge ordered them to keep trying.
The accusers said Weinstein used his clout as a powerful Hollywood film producer, dangling possible acting roles and jobs as bait to get them alone with him. Once in private, they said he masturbated in front of them, groped or sexually assaulted them.
“There are no blurred lines here,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in her final remarks to the jury. “This is a crime and a wanton disregard of other people.”
Weinstein’s lawyers argued the sexual encounters were consensual. They tried discrediting some of the accusers, summoning two of seven witnesses to contradict their accounts. One of them, Paul Feldsher, who is friendly with Sciorra and Weinstein, testified that Sciorra once told him she had done “this crazy thing” with Weinstein, which he thought was sexual in nature. Feldsher said he believed Weinstein was aggressive and “had a sex addiction,” but he said he did not believe Weinstein was capable of rape.
In her closing arguments, 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.”
Rotunno said Weinstein was merely the “target of a cause and a movement.”
Prosecutors called more than 25 witnesses to testify about their encounters with Weinstein, whose downfall began in 2017 after a New York Times expose detailed three decades worth of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Following the explosive report, Weinstein was terminated from The Weinstein Company, a film studio he built with his brother. He was arrested in May 2018.
Weinstein’s is the second major celebrity conviction and victory for #MeToo since Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault in 2018. The disgraced comedian was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison and recently lost his appeal.
Since 2017, the #MeToo movement has sparked a social reckoning that has changed the norms of how sexual harassment is handled in workplaces. At least 15 states have passed new protections to better address sexual harassment and assault, according to the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit women’s rights advocacy group.
Weinstein’s still faces separate sexual assault charges in Los Angeles, which were announced the day his New York trial began.
- The Real Reason Florida Wants to Ban AP African-American Studies, According to an Architect of the Course
- Column: Tyre Nichols' Killing Is The Result of a Diseased Culture
- Without Evusheld, Immunocompromised People Are on Their Own Against COVID-19
- Here Are All the Movies and TV Shows That Make Up the New DCU
- TikTok's 'De-Influencing' Trend Is Here to Tell You What Stuff You Don't Need to Buy
- Column: America Goes About Juvenile Crime Sentencing All Wrong
- Why Your Tax Refund May Be Lower This Year
- Brazil Wants to Abandon a 34,000-Ton Ship at Sea. It Would be an Environmental Disaster
- The 5 Best New TV Shows Our Critic Watched in January 2023