Harvey Weinstein’s lead defense attorney tried to convince jurors during closing arguments Thursday that her Oscar-winning client is innocent — and implored them to have the “courage” to acquit the movie mogul.
Attorney Donna Rotunno told the seven-man, five-woman jury at Weinstein’s historic sex assault and rape trial in Manhattan Supreme Court that “the time to do the right thing is now.”
Rotunno, donning her large eyeglasses and dressed in a black blouse, black pencil skirt and Ferragamo stilettos, attacked the prosecution’s case for its “irony” using movie metaphors.
“The irony is the ADAs in this case are the producers and they are writing the script in their story,” she said. “They’ve created a universe that strips adult women of commonsense, autonomy and responsibility.”
The lawyer, who has previously made controversial comments about the #MeToo movement, told jurors that in the prosecution’s “universe women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with…the plane tickets they accept…the jobs they asked help to obtain.”
“In this script a powerful man is the villain and he is so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily,” said Rotunno, who used a PowerPoint presentation during her remarks.
Earlier, she told the jury: “The DA has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. On behalf of Mr. Weinstein we are imploring you to have the courage to tell them that by saying not guilty on all counts.”
The defense attorney told the jurors that when they first came into the courthouse at 100 Centre Street “you may have had a gut feeling that Harvey Weinstein is guilty.”
But, she said, if you “apply the legal standard of prove beyond a reasonable doubt you can’t find Mr. Weinstein guilty.”
She told the panelists to “stand your ground,” saying “you are the ones here asked to make possibly an unpopular decision.”
“In this country it is the unpopular people who need jury’s the most,” Rotunno said.
Weinstein, 67, faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape and one count of criminal sex act stemming from the allegations of one-time aspiring actress Jessica Mann, former “Project Runway” production assistant Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi and “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra.
Mann, 34, has accused Weinstein of raping her twice, including once at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midtown in March 2013, and another time months later in Los Angeles. Weinstein is only charged in the March incident involving Mann.
Haleyi, 42, has claimed that Weinstein forced oral sex on her and yanked out her tampon in July 2006 after the Hollywood powerbroker invited her to his SoHo apartment, and Sciorra, 59, has accused Weinstein of raping her at her Manhattan home in the winter of 1993-1994. Sciorra’s allegation cannot be prosecuted as rape due to New York’s statute of limitations, but it is being used as part of the predatory sexual assault counts.
Other accusers – Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff, and Lauren Young – also testified in the more than month-long trial as “prior bad acts” witnesses, even though Weinstein is not charged with any wrongdoing involving them.
Rotunno, who sometimes referred to legal explanations, told the jury, “If you don’t believe Miriam Haleyi or Jessica Mann, you don’t have to evaluate anyone else.”
Haleyi has testified that sometime before the alleged sex attack, Weinstein pushed his way into her apartment after she declined an offer to go with him on a private jet to Paris.
“This is a woman who says he barged his way into her apartment – she wanted him to leave. This is a woman who says I could not go to Paris with him because I have no interest in him, whatsoever. Then on July 10 [the day of the alleged sex assault] thinks absolutely nothing of going to his house,” Rotunno said.
Rotunno, who accused Haleyi of “using” Weinstein, added: “Either Miriam Haleyi did not want to be alone with Harvey Weinstein and she would not put herself in such a position or she did want to be alone with him and she cannot admit that fact.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who has appeared in the courtroom regularly during the trial, was present for the defense’s closing arguments.
Lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents Haleyi and Young, and attorney Douglas Wigdor, who represents Wulff, sat on the prosecution’s side of the courtroom during the closing arguments, while Rotunno’s father and her pals from Chicago sat on the defense’s side.
The defense rested its case in the landmark trial Tuesday without putting Weinstein on the witness stand, although the disgraced movie mogul told reporters that he “wanted to” testify.
Before Rotunno delivered her remarks, Justice James Burke asked Weinstein if he was sure that he did not want to testify, “given your subsequent statements.”
“Yes,” Weinstein, donning a black suit and striped blue tie, responded.
As the once-powerful Hollywood heavyweight entered the courthouse for the day using his walker, he answered “no” when asked by a reporter whether he was nervous.
The jury is slated to hear closing arguments by the prosecution on Friday.
Deliberations in the #MeToo-era trial are scheduled to start next week.
Weinstein, a father of five, has continued to maintain his innocence, claiming that all of his sexual encounters were consensual.
If convicted of the top charge, predatory sexual assault, the fallen film titan faces up to life in prison.
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