the law

Weinstein’s Lawyer Says Accusers Had ‘Choices’

Harvey Weinstein Photo: Getty Images

Harvey Weinstein’s lead lawyer in his Manhattan rape and sexual-assault trial said in her closing remarks Thursday that the prosecutors’ narrative that he preyed on women was “stripping adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility.” At one point, attorney Donna Rotunno invoked a golf legend to prove a point, saying, “Tiger Woods is a sex addict. You don’t see him in a criminal courtroom.”

“In their opening statement, Ms. [Meghan] Hast wove a sinister tale of a man who searched out his victims by putting them through a series of tests,” Rotunno said in her closing statement. “The government has to weave a story because without a story, they know — if you had to look at the evidence alone, from their perspective — they lose.”

Prosecutors, Rotunno said, “tried to trick you into making sense of the non-sensible, try to explain the inexplicable.”

“The irony is that the ADAs [assistant district attorneys] in this case are the producers, and they are writing the script in this story,” Rotunno said. “They are creating a universe in which they’re stripping adult women of common sense, autonomy, and responsibility.

“In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their careers, the hotel room invitations, and the plane tickets they accept.”

Later, she also slammed prosecutors’ decision to show jurors nude photos of Weinstein.

“In the alternative universe that the prosecutors have created for you, Harvey Weinstein is a monster. He is unattractive. He’s overweight. They showed you naked photographs of him,” she said. “Ask yourself, why? To do nothing more than shame him … no reason whatsoever for those photographs, not one. No issue of identification.”

Weinstein “is not the monster” people have portrayed him as, she said at one point.

Rotunno talked for about five hours, and Weinstein appeared more attentive than normal — the film producer appeared to fall asleep at various points during the trial.

The seven men and five women of the jury who are weighing Weinstein’s fate were a mix of engaged- and exhausted-looking. Some scribbled attentively in notebooks. One female juror nodded off.

Weinstein is charged with five counts involving two women, former Project Runway production assistant Mimi Haleyi and onetime actress Jessica Mann. The fallen Pulp Fiction producer faces one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree for Haleyi’s allegation that he forced oral sex on her in his Soho apartment in 2006. He is charged with one count of rape in the first degree, and one count of rape in the third degree, for Mann’s allegation that he raped her at a Midtown East hotel in 2013.

He is also charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault; one count related to Haleyi’s allegation, and the other related to Mann’s accusation. Prosecutors used Annabella Sciorra’s testimony that Weinstein raped her around late 1993 to claim that he had a proclivity toward sexual predation, and to bolster these two counts.

During the trial, three women testified about prior bad acts allegedly committed by Weinstein. While Weinstein is not charged in New York with these alleged crimes, jurors can consider them in the context of intent and opportunity. Those women include Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff, and Lauren Young.

Rotunno also told jurors that “you should never be bullied or pressured to change your decision” and to “stand your ground.”

“Historically, you are the last line of defense in the country from an overzealous media, from the overzealous prosecution,” she said. “You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein. This is not a popularity contest.”

“But you have to remember, we are not here to criminalize morality,” Rotunno continued.

Just before the four-hour mark in her argument, Rotunno also addressed longtime Weinstein friend Paul Feldsher’s testimony that the fallen film mogul “had a sex addiction.”

“Tiger Woods is a sex addict. You don’t see him in a criminal courtroom,” Rotunno said. “Being a sex addict and being a rapist are two different things.”

Meanwhile, Rotunno’s closing remarks were attended by Tina Glandian, a celebrity lawyer whose high-profile clients include Jussie Smollett and Chris Brown. Glandian sat in one of the two rows reserved for Weinstein’s camp. According to the New York Post, Glandian attended Weinstein’s Super Bowl party. The newspaper reported that Weinstein attorneys Arthur Aidala and Damon Cheronis were also present at the football fête.

As Rotunno’s closing wound down, she said, “This is not a game.”

“This is not a rubber-stamp media version of events, or a kowtow to the court of public opinion,” she said. “This is a criminal trial where proof matters, evidence matters — a criminal trial where we dont judge on sympathy or emotion.”

“This table wants to win so bad,” she said of prosecutors. “The pressure to win this case in this climate, in this city …” she continued, before being interrupted by an objection.

“When this case is over, we know that you’ll do the right thing because justice demands it, and you will find Mr. Weinstein not guilty,” she concluded.

Reporters outside the courtroom asked Weinstein for his reaction after the court adjourned for the day. “I loved it. The queen’s speech, that’s what it was,” an upbeat Weinstein said, seemingly alluding to The King’s Speech, which was produced by his former film company.

Weinstein offered a confusing answer when Vulture asked about Rotunno’s Tiger Woods comparison, saying, “I like Donna’s rocks better.”

Update, February 24: Harvey Weinstein’s verdict has been announced.

Weinstein’s Lawyer Says Accusers Had ‘Choices’