Harvey Weinstein’s defense team urged jurors to acquit the ex-Hollywood titan of rape and predatory sexual assault charges in closing arguments Thursday — even though a not guilty verdict would be unpopular.
Lead attorney Donna Rotunno said prosecutors had created “an alternative universe” in which the “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare In Love” producer preyed on aspiring actresses, but had not provided any evidence to convict.
“He was innocent when he walked through the door. He was innocent when witnesses started to take the stand. He is innocent as he sits here right now,” Rotunno told the New York state court.
Weinstein, 67, faces life imprisonment if convicted of predatory sexual assault charges in the high-profile trial that marks a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement.
Since testimony began on January 22, six women have taken the stand in New York to say they were sexually assaulted by Weinstein, allegations the fallen movie mogul denies.
Rotunno reminded the 12 jurors that they are considering charges related to just two women — ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi.
Mann says the movie mogul raped her in March 2013 while Haleyi alleges he forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006.
“From an overzealous media, from an overzealous prosecution, you are being asked to make an unpopular decision,” Rotunno told the jury, asking them “to block out the noise” surrounding the proceedings.
“Never let your emotion cloud your intellect. Use your New York City common sense. It will guide you to the right answer,” she added.
The trial has raised complicated issues surrounding consent and abuse of power for the jury of seven men and five women.
Under cross-examination, both Mann and Haleyi admitted to at least one consensual sexual encounter with Weinstein after the alleged assaults.
The defense has presented emails that appear to show the accusers on friendly terms with Weinstein.
“The truth leaves a paper trail,” said Rotunno.
Weinstein faces five counts, including predatory sexual assault, rape and engaging in a criminal sexual act.
Rotunno reminded the jury that to convict the defendant they must be sure of his guilt “beyond all reasonable doubt.”
“It’s not a small doubt, it’s not a little doubt. It’s beyond all reasonable doubt,” she said.
The jury must reach a unanimous verdict. If it can’t then the judge may be forced to declare a mistrial.
Weinstein is also facing a separate sex crimes investigation in Los Angeles and is the subject of several civil complaints. AFP