Harvey Weinstein's lawyer says he'll be exonerated during trial: 'I don't believe he's a rapist'

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Film producer Harvey Weinstein and his attorney Donna Rotunno arrive at New York State Supreme Court for a hearing on hiring of new lawyers in his rape case in New York, U.S., July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Film producer Harvey Weinstein and his attorney Donna Rotunno arrive at New York State Supreme Court for a hearing on hiring of new lawyers in his rape case in New York, U.S., July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Harvey Weinstein's new defense attorney, Donna Rotunno, is raising some eyebrows after her interview on CBS This Morning. During a sit-down with co-host Gayle King, Rotunno explained why she isn't a supporter of the #MeToo movement and why she's confident Weinstein will be completely exonerated.

"I've heard you say that you're not really a — is it 'believer' or 'supporter' of the #MeToo movement?" King asks.

"Yeah, it's more of a supporter. I think in many ways, there are good things about #MeToo — and I've said this — but what bothers me about #MeToo ... it allows the court of public opinion to take over the narrative," Rotunno replied. "And when you can't come out and then either correct or challenge that narrative, it puts you in a position where you're stripped of your rights."

Weinstein is facing criminal charges in New York on allegations of sexual assault against two women. His trial starts in January and Rotunno was asked about her defense strategy.

"Well, the strategy in defending him, of course, is just evaluating the case for what it is, and determining whether or not these allegations are things that we can refute," she said. "And in the criminal case, there are two charged victims and in both cases I feel strongly about the fact that we have evidence that is favorable to us and evidence that I think will exonerate him."

The story is much bigger than just two women, as King pointed out. Over 90 women have come forward accusing the disgraced producer of sexual harassment, assault and/or misconduct. (He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.) While Rotunno said she's obviously aware of the accusations, they "don't matter in the context of the criminal case."

"But how does Harvey explain those allegations?" King asked.

"Well, I don't think it's about explaining them. I think it's, you know, anytime we talk about men and women in sexual circumstances, I think we have to look at the fact that there's always an area of gray so there's these blurred lines and then sometimes one side walks away from an event feeling different than the other, and how do we reconcile with that," Rotunno replied.

"It's not uncommon for a woman who has been through a very difficult, traumatic experience with a man to still be engaged with that man," noted King.

"And that's a choice. And if a woman makes that choice, she makes that choice. But then I think years later to come forward and then say — and who knows years later if your memory is exactly the way something happened at the time that you're claiming that it did … But I get frustrated when I listen to these types of situations, and I hear women say, 'Well, I didn't have a choice,'" Rotunno said. "Well, no, you had a choice and you made a choice."

Rotunno added that she's "not minimizing" all of the other allegations against Weinstein, "But for my purposes in this case, it's not where I have to put my time and attention. It's really about making sure those issues don't cloud our ability to pick a fair jury."

Rotunno was asked about the three women expected to testify during THE trial as "prior bad act" witnesses, similar to the women who were allowed to testify during Bill Cosby's trial. "I think there's always a concern about those things," she admitted. "I think the notion of where there's smoke, there's fire is always something that we have to worry about."

"This is more than fire, though, Donna," King exclaimed. "This is an inferno when it comes to Harvey Weinstein."

"Well, I think. I think that when you look at the criminal case, I don't think that that's the case," Rotunno replied. "I'm not here to say that he was not guilty of committing sins. I'm not here to say that at all. But there's a difference between sins and crimes and I don't think he's a rapist. I don't believe he's a rapist."

"Do you ever worry that you're making it harder for women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted, raped to come forward?" King asked.

"No," Rotunno stated. "I would hope that I'm making it easier for them. ... I would hope that doing what I'm doing makes them realize they have choices, and if they really are in a position that they feel uncomfortable, then the first thing they should do is report it. They should go to the police and I think that that sort of weeding out the cases that don't rise to the level of real assaults should help real victims. So no, I think I'm helping them, actually."

Rotunno added that while a man needs to take responsibility for his actions "no question," Weinstein has already paid the ultimate price.

"And I think that no matter what happens to Harvey Weinstein, he will pay the biggest price there is. Even if he wins, Gayle, his whole life has been ruined, toppled, damaged," she explained. "And whether it's by his own doing or others, that's the fact. And the fact is that no matter what we do — and we can walk out of that courtroom with a not guilty and walk him out onto those courtroom steps — and he never gets to be Harvey Weinstein ever again."

Rotunno noted that Weinstein has been very involved in the preparation of his case, but they have not yet decided if he will take the stand.

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