Harvey Weinstein prosecutors ‘have acted like film-makers’

The former movie mogul’s lawyer Donna Rotunno made her closing argument in his New York trial.

Harvey Weinstein prosecutors ‘have acted like film-makers’

Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer has said that prosecutors in the rape case against him were acting like film-makers, creating a world where “women are not responsible” for how they interact with men.

“In the alternative universe that prosecutors have created for you, Harvey Weinstein is a monster,” lawyer Donna Rotunno said in her closing argument.

But, she said he is an innocent man relying on jurors not to be swayed by a “sinister tale”.

Ms Rotunno argued that prosecutors had to come up with a damning story about the once-powerful movie producer because they do not have the evidence to prove the charges.

“The irony is that they are the producers and they are writing the script,” she said.

Harvey Weinstein arrives for his trial in New York
Harvey Weinstein arrives for his trial in New York (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Witnesses testified that what they sought was a professional relationship with Weinstein, the lawyer said, “because if they label it what it was, we wouldn’t be here”.

She faces a tricky task – convincing the jury of seven men and five women that there are too many inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimony of Weinstein’s accusers, without breaking her earlier promise that jurors would not hear any “victim shaming”.

“You don’t have to like Mr Weinstein,” she told jurors. “This is not a popularity contest.”

She appealed to jurors to ignore “outside forces” and use their “New York City common sense” in weighing a case seen as a watershed for the #MeToo movement, which was fuelled by Weinstein’s downfall.

Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman, Mimi Haleyi, in 2006. Other accusers testified as part of a prosecution effort to show he used the same tactics to victimise many women over the years.

Weinstein, 67, did not testify. He has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.

The jury is scheduled to hear prosecutors’ closing argument on Friday before getting instructions on the law from Judge James Burke next week and starting deliberations.

In often emotional testimony, Weinstein’s accusers said he lured them to hotels in New York and Los Angeles on the pretence of promoting their careers and then sexually assaulted them.

The defence countered by confronting some accusers with warm e-mails and other communications with Weinstein that continued for months or even years after the alleged attacks.

In her closing argument on Thursday, Ms Rotunno said e-mails offered “real-time evidence” of what happened between Weinstein and the women.

The rape accuser wrote to him after the alleged assault to accept party invitations, give him her new phone numbers and even express gratitude. One message read: “I feel so fabulous and beautiful, thank you for everything.”

Another read: “Miss you, big guy.”

“Not words you say to your rapist,” Ms Rotunno told jurors on Thursday. She portrayed the accuser as a manipulator who met Weinstein as an aspiring actress, “was going to do anything she needed to do to have the career she wanted to have” and was not forced to have sexual encounters with him.

The woman testified last month that she kept in touch with Weinstein and sent him flattering messages because “his ego was so fragile” and it seemed safer to her “to be perceived as innocent and naive”.

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