Harvey Weinstein Defense Makes Closing Arguments

Feb 13, 2020
Originally published on February 13, 2020 2:29 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Want to note a warning here - our next story deals with allegations of sexual abuse. That's 'cause we're talking about lawyers for Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. They wrapped up his defense today. He's charged with five counts of rape and assault related to two women.

NPR's Rose Friedman has been in the courthouse in New York City throughout the trial. She joins us now.

Rose, what did you hear in the closing argument from the defense today?

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Well, Weinstein has maintained all along that all his sexual encounters were consensual. His attorney Donna Rotunno's main argument was that the two women Weinstein is charged with raping or assaulting continued to be in friendly communication with him after both alleged events. So the defense argues that if he had really assaulted them, the women wouldn't have continued those relationships. So Rotunno brought up text messages, party invitations, offers of plane tickets and email after email between Weinstein and the two women, asking basically the same question over and over again, which is, is this really how you talk to your rapist?

She also accused prosecutors of spinning a tale of an alternative universe where women have no agency, meaning in their version of events - I'll quote her - their version strips adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility. She said it's offensive, actually. In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers.

CORNISH: And as the defense for Harvey Weinstein, what does Rotunno have to sort of accomplish here?

FRIEDMAN: She doesn't really need to prove anything to the jury. What she needs to get them to do is doubt the state's case against Weinstein. So she brought up a lot of instances of discrepancies in the stories the women told about their interactions with Weinstein. Here's one example. Miriam Haley is one of the women Weinstein's charged with assaulting in 2006. Haley says a driver brought her to Weinstein's apartment, where the assault happened, and that afterwards, she was afraid the driver might have been in on it. But Rotunno pointed out that Haley accepted a ride from a driver that Weinstein sent the very next day.

Rotunno also pointed out actions by both women that she said made it look as if they were having just extramarital affairs with Weinstein, who was married for most of this time - occasions when Weinstein would arrive back in town after traveling and make plans to see one of the two women. She said - I'm quoting - that's what you do when you're seeing someone and it's new. What you do in a new relationship - they come home from a trip; you go to their house. So she took five hours to sort of painstakingly go through every witness, attempting to show that these were consensual encounters that the women later framed as assaults.

CORNISH: Now, does this follow something she's said publicly - that she believes Harvey Weinstein was prosecuted because of the #MeToo movement? Did she say anything like that to the jury?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah. She didn't repeat that exactly, but she did point out that the women in this case all came forward after 2017, which is when The New York Times and New Yorker published stories about Weinstein. She accused the women of taking advantage of the movement for personal gain, and she called actress Annabella Sciorra the darling of the movement.

CORNISH: And next steps in this trial?

FRIEDMAN: Tomorrow is prosecutor Joan Illuzzi's turn to give her summation. She doesn't - she - I'm sorry. She does need to prove her case to the jury. One of the tactics that she used during the trial was to ask the court to allow women who weren't part of the charges to testify. So prosecutors are hoping that hearing more stories will establish a pattern of behavior. That's why we heard from six women in this case. So Illuzzi will probably try to remind the jurors of all those stories and ask them if they think a person who has this many accusers could be innocent. And then the jury will begin deliberating on Tuesday.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Rose Friedman. Thanks for your reporting.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Audie.

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