NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer told jurors Thursday that prosecutors in the rape case against him were acting like moviemakers, creating a world where “women are not responsible” for how they interact with men.
Weinstein is innocent, attorney Donna Rotunno said, appealing 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.
Rotunno, who has taken heat from #MeToo supporters for her advocacy for the disgraced movie mogul, argued that prosecutors had to come up with a “sinister tale” about the 67-year-old disgraced producer because they don’t have the evidence to prove the charges.
“The irony is that they are the producers and they are writing the script,” Rotunno said. “In their universe, women are not responsible” for their behavior when they engage with men.
Rotunno 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 wouldn’t hear any “victim shaming.”
“You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein,” she told jurors. “This is not a popularity contest.”
Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman in 2006. Other accusers testified as part of a prosecution effort to show he used the same tactics to victimize many women over the years.
Weinstein, who did not testify, has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.
The jury is scheduled to hear the prosecution closings 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 pretense of promoting their acting careers and then sexually assaulted them. The defense countered by confronting some accusers with warm emails and other communications with Weinstein that continued for months or even years after the alleged attacks.
The jury heard about emails in which the victim of the alleged rape wrote to Weinstein afterward to accept party invitations from him, give him new phone numbers and even express gratitude. One message read: “I feel so fabulous and beautiful, thank you for everything.”
Rotunno is also likely to highlight the testimony of a friend and former roommate of the same accuser who said she never heard the woman say anything bad about Weinstein. Instead, the woman once called him her “spiritual soulmate,” the witness said.
Rotunno delivered her closing argument less than a week after she came under fire on social media for telling The New York Times’ podcast “The Daily” she’d never been attacked “because I would never put myself in that position.”
In court, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon questioned the timing of the interview and rebuked Rotunno for calling the prosecution’s witnesses “liars.”
“That was taped a long time ago,” Rotunno interrupted, claiming that she hadn’t talked to anyone in the media since the case began.
She was later contradicted by a Times spokeswoman, who told reporters the interview was recorded on Jan. 28 — five days after opening statements and the start of testimony.