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Harvey Weinstein is 'an innocent man,' defense says at closing argument of New York trial

Laura Newberry and James Queally, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

NEW YORK -- In a scathing closing argument, Harvey Weinstein's lead attorney attacked prosecutors and the media Thursday before pleading with a New York jury to make what she described as an unpopular choice, and acquit the mogul of five counts of sexual assault.

As she stood before the jury of seven men and five women, Donna Rotunno asked them to use "New York City common sense" to guide their decision-making and to focus on the evidence presented at trial rather than the maelstrom of negative press Weinstein received between the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017 and his trial.

"You may have had a gut feeling that Harvey Weinstein was guilty," she said. "Throw that gut feeling right out the window."

Rotunno's remarks came after three weeks of testimony in the Manhattan criminal courthouse. Weinstein, 67, faces five felony charges in New York, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. The producer faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and could be locked away for the rest of his life if convicted on the last charge.

The charges stem from accusations by Mimi Haley, a former employee of Weinstein's production company who alleges Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006, and Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress who testified that the producer raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013.

To earn a conviction on the predatory sexual assault charge, prosecutors must convince jurors that Weinstein assaulted Haley or Mann as well as "Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra.

 

Three other women also testified that Weinstein assaulted them, but their crimes were either too old to prosecute or happened outside the jurisdiction of the Manhattan district attorney's office. One woman's allegation about an assault in a Los Angeles hotel led prosecutors to file charges against Weinstein in Southern California.

Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The defense has routinely seized upon the fact that Haley and Mann kept in contact with Weinstein, and in some cases engaged in consensual sex with him, after the dates of their alleged assaults.

Rotunno questioned why Haley continued to see Weinstein after the alleged assault in the summer of 2006, and contended that it was because they were in a romantic relationship, not a professional one, as Haley had told the jury.

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