UPDATED with more details: Closing arguments in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein concluded Friday, with the prosecution getting the last word: The women who came forward to testify “didn’t come for money,” said Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi. “They didn’t come for fame. They came to be heard. They sacrificed their dignity, their privacy and their peace.”
She then implored the jury to find Weinstein guilty on all charges.
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Illuzzi, finishing her three-hour closing argument around 1 PM New York time, asked jurors to put aside as irrelevant “the stupid parties, the stupid events, the premieres and everything else” that the accusers attended with Weinstein even after they claim to have been sexually violated by him.
“These people, all of them, are navigating a very difficult industry,” Illuzzi said about Jessica Mann, Miriam Haley and the four other women who testified in this trial. She described the parties, premieres and other such networking events that the women sought to attend through Weinstein’s invitations as “work that looks like play.”
“It’s work,” she said, “and it’s work that supports them and their families. Going to parties sounds like it’s fun but it’s networking every single time.”
In repeated entreaties to the jury to judge only the witnesses’ honesty and not their decisions, Illuzzi at one point said about Mann’s continued and seemingly friendly contact with Weinstein, “Perhaps you think she’s ridiculous, but the question is not whether she made a bad decision. The question for you is whether or not Jessica Mann is lying…If she’s telling you the truth, she’s the victim of rape.”
Illuzzi also slammed Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno’s closing argument yesterday that criticized the accusers for retaining attorneys, possibly for later civil action (Haley and lawyer Gloria Allred, Rotunno said, “see a pot of gold at the end of this trial”).
Pointing to Weinstein and raising her voice, Illuzzi said, “How dare he, with five lawyers sitting there every day from every state, complain about how these women have a lawyer?” She asked the jury, “If you were navigating this situation, would you want to consult a lawyer?”
Weinstein, the 67-year-old former Miramax and The Weinstein Company chief who has been publicly named by dozens of women for alleged sexual misconduct, is on trial in New York State Supreme Court in the cases of Haley, now 42, who was a production assistant on Project Runway in 2006 when, she says, Weinstein held her down in a hotel room and forcibly performed oral sex on her; and Mann, 34, a former actress, model and hairstylist who claims Weinstein raped her in 2013 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midtown Mannhattan.
Four other women, including actress Annabella Sciorra, testified to their own accounts of sexual misconduct involving Weinstein as prosecutors attempted to establish patterns and bolster the cases of Mann and Haley.
Weinstein insists all sexual relations were consensual, and has pleaded not guilty in this Manhattan courtroom to five felony charges including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual assault.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle the New York prosecutors have faced in this trial is the accusers’ trail of emails and texts — detailed by the defense throughout the trial and during its closing arguments yesterday — in which the women maintained a seemingly cordial relationship with Weinstein even after they say he raped them.
Today, Illuzzi sought to contextualize the continued contact, not only citing expert testimony that rape victims often keep in touch with their abusers but differentiating the victims’ age, size, vulnerability and financial desperation with Weinstein’s bulk, power and wealth.
Reminding jurors of Haley’s testimony about a car ride to meet Weinstein and a Miramax staffer at a hotel room, Illuzzi said, “What’s important is what (Haley) said about going to the hotel: She looks down at her shoes and they’re all worn and old and she thinks to herself, ‘I’m so poor. I have nothing.’
“It is a complete dichotomy,” she continued. “Here is a defendant with everything, using and abusing people he knows have nothing.”
Countering the defense’s depiction of the accusers as motivated by money and access, Illuzzi reminded jurors of an email Mann sent to Weinstein politely declining an envelope of cash despite her struggle at the time to pay rent on a garage apartment.
Mann, who broke down in sobs during her testimony, endured three days of brutal cross-examination, much of it focused on her amiable emails to Weinstein, in order to be heard, Illuzzi said. “She owned her behavior for the chance to come here and tell you ‘Harvey Weinstein raped me.'”
“She could have had his name tattooed on her arm, she could have been writing him love notes every single day,” Illuzzi said. “He still wouldn’t be allowed to rape her on March 18, 2013.”
Earlier today, the prosecutor derided Thursday’s allegation by the defense that accuser Sciorra made up her rape accusation against the ex-mogul to become “relevant” again.
“Seriously,” Illuzzi told jurors shortly after beginning her closing arguments this morning, “how marketable do you think it makes Annabella Sciorra to have to come here to this courtroom, in public, in front of all of you…in front of the entire world” and describe the details of her rape and the self-destructive activities that followed?
“How does it benefit her to say she was cutting herself” and putting blood on her wall along with gold leaf, Illuzzi asked, referring to Sciorra’s testimony that in the wake of the alleged rape in the early ’90s she became a Valium addict, drank too much and began to cut herself on the legs. At one point, Sciorra testified, as she was painting a white room red, she began to mix her own blood into the paint, marking the blood spots on the wall with bits of gold leaf.
“Do you think that’s a career booster?” Illuzzi asked the jury. “What producer would want that image associated with whatever film they were putting out? This is a career move? Really?”
Illuzzi began her arguments by suggesting the trial is, in part, about “power, manipulation and abuse” and the “wanton lack of human empathy that most of us possess.”
Illuzzi described Weinstein’s approach to the women as “This universe is run by me so they don’t get to complain…” The prosecutor called Weinstein “an abusive rapist” who maintained contact with his victims “to make sure that one day they won’t step out of the shadows and accuse him of what he was.”
Weinstein, Illuzzi said, hired detectives to investigate Sciorra – but not the other accusers – because the Sopranos and Copland actress was part of “his world,” a woman accustomed to dining with Uma Thurman and Gary Oldman. The five other women who testified in this trial, Illuzzi said, were “complete disposables” to Weinstein.
Mann, Haley and model Lauren Young, who also testified, were “not strong enough, not brave enough, never going to be a part of his world.”
Following Illuzzi’s closing, the jury was dismissed for the long Presidents Day Weekend, with jury instructions by New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke set for Tuesday morning. Deliberations will begin thereafter.
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