- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2020

A New York jury on Monday issued a split verdict in the Harvey Weinstein case, finding the onetime Hollywood movie mogul guilty of two felony sex crimes, but not the most serious assault charges against him, in the explosive case that galvanized the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein, 67, was found guilty of two of the five counts, criminal sexual assault in the first degree and third-degree rape, but not guilty of first-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a sentence of life in prison.

“This is the new landscape for the survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and this is a new day,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said. “It’s a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for the crimes he committed. The women who came forward courageously and at great risk made that happen.”

Defense attorney Donna Rotunno told reporters outside the lower Manhattan courthouse that Weinstein would appeal “as soon as possible” and that “the fight is not over.”

An Academy Award-winning producer and co-founder of the independent distributor Miramax, Weinstein was immediately taken into custody pending his March 11 sentencing. He could receive a maximum 25 years in prison for the criminal sexual assault count.



He faces separate rape and sexual assault charges in Los Angeles.

His dizzying fall from one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives to disgraced sexual offender began in 2017 after dozens of women accused Weinstein in stories for The New York Times, The New Yorker and other media outlets of using his clout for decades to commit rape and sexual assault, tarring him as the loutish face of the #MeToo era.

At the same time, the mixed decision by the jury of seven men and five women, who deliberated for five days before Monday’s verdict, pointed to the ongoing difficulty of prosecuting he-said-she-said sexual assault cases that pit the word of the accuser against the accused on the matter of consent.

Mr. Vance insisted he was “not dissatisfied” by the not-guilty verdicts on the two predatory sexual assault counts.

“It is not the top counts in the indictment, but by no means am I disappointed with the jury’s unanimous statement that Harvey Weinstein is guilty of sexual assault and rape,” Mr. Vance told reporters at a post-verdict press conference.

The guilty verdicts were for charges that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on former “Project Runway” production assistant Miriam Haleyi in 2006 and raped former aspiring actress Jessica Mann, with whom he was involved in a relationship, in 2013.

In the Mann assault, the jury found him guilty of third-degree rape, not first-degree, indicating that he did not use “forcible compulsion.” The conviction carries a sentence of up to four years.

“He handled it like a stoic gentleman,” Weinstein attorney Arthur Aidala told reporters. “He just kept repeating, ‘But I’m innocent, but I’m innocent, I’m innocent. How could this happen in America?’”

Four other women, including “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, had testified that they were attacked by Weinstein as prosecutors sought to prove a pattern of violence, while the defense argued that any encounters were consensual and that two women kept in contact with him after the alleged assaults.

The verdict was met with cheers by Weinstein critics in Hollywood such as actress Ellen Barkin, who tweeted, “Right now convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein is sitting handcuffed in a car on his way to prison.”

The Silence Breakers, a group of Weinstein accusers that include actresses Rosanna Arquette and Ashley Judd, praised the bravery of the women who testified against Weinstein and took issue with the “flawed process.”

“While it is disappointing that today’s outcome does not deliver the true, full justice that so many women deserve, Harvey Weinstein will now be forever known as a convicted serial predator,” the Silence Breakers said in their statement.

Journalist Ronan Farrow, who interviewed multiple Weinstein accusers in an October 2017 article for The New Yorker, tweeted that the trial’s outcome “is the result of the decisions of multiple women to come forward to journalists and to prosecutors at great personal cost and risk. Please keep those women in your thoughts today.”

Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, praised the “survivors for their strength and resilience in the face of appalling treatment by the defense” and that he was grateful Weinstein would be “punished for at least some of his crimes.”

Others asked whether Weinstein had been convicted before the trial began.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Gary Jay Kaufman said the “presumption of innocence in the Weinstein case, as in many high-profile #MeToo cases, is meaningless.”

“From a criminal defense perspective, Harvey Weinstein was first convicted in the media, setting the stage for conviction in the court, even though the evidence was replete with reasonable doubts,” said Mr. Kaufman. “Getting a fair trial in high-profile #MeToo cases, like Weinstein‘s, may no longer be possible due to the years of concentrated, pretrial, negative media coverage.”

Former federal prosecutor Doug Richards, of the law firm Richards Carrington in Denver, said the verdict “will send shock waves through the #MeToo movement considering it was this case that opened the floodgates.”

“We’ve seen that not all #MeToo allegations are the same and that upon closer inspection — with the assistance of cross-examination — we should not be so quick to rush to judgment,” Mr. Richards said.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault or harassment. They include Miss Judd, who tweeted Monday that those who testified “did a public service to girls and women everywhere.”

“I am thinking about how it took 90 women coming forward for two guilty convictions,” she added.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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