NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of sexual assault in a New York court Monday, the first conviction to emerge from the dozens of misconduct allegations against the once-powerful movie producer.
The jury determined that Weinstein forced a sex act on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in July 2006 and raped former aspiring actress Jessica Mann at a hotel in 2013.
He was found not guilty of the most severe charge, predatory sexual assault, which would have acknowledged a pattern that included forcing sex on actress Annabella Sciorra in 1993 or 1994 and would have carried a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
The top conviction count could yield up to 25 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for March 11.
After the verdict announcement, Weinstein was handcuffed and put in jail, and his bail was revoked.
The case is a landmark of the #MeToo movement, which has brought a flurry of sexual assault and harassment allegations against powerful men and prompted conversations about gender and misconduct in all walks of life. The movement was jump-started after the New York Times and New Yorker published allegations against Weinstein in late 2017.
The verdict “sends a powerful message of just how much progress has been made” since Weinstein’s accusers came forward, said a statement from Time’s Up, an organization advocating for harassment-free workplaces. “This trial — and the jury’s decision today — marks a new era of justice, not just for the Silence Breakers, who spoke out at great personal risk, but for all survivors of harassment, abuse, and assault at work.”
Tarana Burke, the original creator of the #MeToo movement, said in a statement, “Harvey Weinstein operated with impunity and without remorse for decades in Hollywood. Yet, it still took years, and millions of voices raised, for one man to be held accountable by the justice system.”
She added: “This case reminds us that sexual violence thrives on unchecked power and privilege. The implications reverberate far beyond Hollywood and into the daily lives of all of us in the rest of the world.”
The jury of seven men and five women heard about three weeks of testimony in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan before beginning deliberations late Tuesday morning. They heard from six accusers: Mann, Haleyi, Sciorra and three others who were allowed as support witnesses. The prosecution brought a total of 28 witnesses, and the defense brought seven, including former friends of accusers who disputed their testimony.
Prosecutors argued that Weinstein’s accusers felt overpowered professionally and physically, by his status in Hollywood and his 300-pound frame. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in her closing arguments that Weinstein had “not only run roughshod over the dignity and, indeed, the lives of these witnesses, but that he also underestimated them.”
Weinstein’s attitude was “they want to be in the universe [and] the universe is run by me and they don’t get to complain when they’re stepped on or demoralized and raped and abused,” the prosecutor argued.
Mann, 34, had a five-year relationship with Weinstein but accused him of forcing sex on her twice — at a DoubleTree Hotel in New York on March 18, 2013, which led to the conviction, and in Los Angeles, an incident that was not at issue in the trial. Haleyi, 42, accused Weinstein of forcing oral sex on her at his Manhattan apartment on July 10, 2006, and described having unwanted but consensual sex with him about two weeks later at a New York hotel (he was not charged for the latter).
Weinstein’s lawyers argued that all sexual activity with the accusers was consensual.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. attended the trial almost daily. He has faced repeated accusations throughout his decade in office for backing down from sex crimes when influential men are accused.
“Rape is rape whether a survivor reports within an hour, within a year or, perhaps, never,” Vance said at a press conference after the verdict. “It’s rape despite the complicated dynamics of power and consent after an assault. It’s rape even if there is no physical evidence and even if it happened a long time ago. This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault.”
He added, “Weinstein is a vicious serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault, trick, humiliate and silence his victims.”
SOURCE: WASHINGTON POST