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Harvey Weinstein’s defense deliver closing arguments in rape trial

Harvey Weinstein’s defense lawyer has claimed his accusers and their attorneys are in it for the money and that they saw a ‘pot of gold’ at the end of his rape trial.

In her closing arguments on Thursday, lawyer Donna Rotunno told jurors that prosecutors had come up with a ‘sinister tale’ about the disgraced Hollywood producer because they don’t have the evidence to prove the charges.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013 and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006.

Rotunno implied that Haleyi’s memories only resurfaced 3,163 days after her alleged attack when she read an expose in October 2017 about accusations made against Weinstein.

‘She hires Gloria Allred who sits here every day,’ Rotunno said about Haleyi’s attorney.

Rotunno said that while Allred hasn’t been paid she ‘knows there’s a pot of gold at the end of this trial’.

Weinstein’s lawyer also told jurors that her client is ‘just another human being’ and said prosecutors had created a universe where women were not responsible for choices they make to further their careers. 

She declared that Weinstein was innocent and appealed to jurors to ignore ‘outside forces’ and use their ‘New York City common sense’ to find him not guilty.   

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein is expected on Thursday to urge a New York jury to acquit the former Hollywood producer of sexual assault as the weeks-long trial against him comes to a close

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein is expected on Thursday to urge a New York jury to acquit the former Hollywood producer of sexual assault as the weeks-long trial against him comes to a close

His lawyer, Donna Rotunno, faces the tricky task of convincing a Manhattan jury that there are too many inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimony of six Weinstein accusers who took the witness stand

The defense lawyer, who has taken heat from #MeToo supporters for her advocacy for the former movie mogul, said it was ironic that prosecutors were the producers and they were writing the script for Weinstein’s trial. 

‘Their story created a universe where adult women have no autonomy and responsibility… women are not responsible for parties they attend, for choices they make to further their own career… for sitting at their computers for sending emails to someone across the country,’ she argued. 

Rotunno said that in the prosecution’s version: ‘The powerful man is the villain and is so unattractive that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily. 

She told the jury: ‘In the alternative universe the prosecution have created for you Harvey is a monster, he’s unattractive, he’s overweight. They showed you naked photographs of him. Ask yourself why? To do nothing more than shame him.’ 

His lawyer faces the tricky task of convincing a Manhattan jury that there are too many inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimony of six Weinstein accusers who took the witness stand to convict her client. 

In often emotional testimony stretching over three weeks, Weinstein’s accusers described in lurid detail how he lured them to hotels in New York and Los Angeles on the pretense of promoting their acting careers before sexually assaulting them.  

The defense argued in closing arguments that the prosecution had woven ‘a sinister tale of a man who searched out his victims by putting them through a series of tests’ but that story was not supported by evidence. 

Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room early in what she called an ‘extremely degrading’ relationship with him and that it continued for years and included consensual sex.

Rotunno, during cross examination, presented her with numerous affectionate emails she sent the producer after the alleged rape, including one in which she wrote: ‘I love you, always do.’ 

Haleyi testified that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in his home in 2006. Some time later, she said, she went to see him in a hotel in an effort to ‘regain some sort of power’. Weinstein pulled her onto a bed and had sex with her, Haleyi testified. 

Under cross-examination, she said she had not been forced. She acknowledged sending several friendly emails to Weinstein in the following years.  

The defense, in closing arguments, cast doubt on Haleyi’s version of her alleged assault and accused her of using Weinstein for jobs.  

In her closing arguments on Thursday, lawyer Donna Rotunno told jurors the case against the disgraced Hollywood producer was unproven and urged them to use their 'New York City common sense' to find him not guilty

In her closing arguments on Thursday, lawyer Donna Rotunno told jurors the case against the disgraced Hollywood producer was unproven and urged them to use their ‘New York City common sense’ to find him not guilty

Jessica Mann

Mimi Haleyi

In the defense’s closing arguments, Weinstein’s lawyer urged jurors to only consider the cases of Mimi Haleyi (right) and Jessica Mann (left) – the two main accusers. The defense said that they were the only cases that mattered and if the jury didn’t believe them they should acquit

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013 and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013 and to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006

‘They had more of a relationship than she wanted you to know because she was using him for jobs… but she can’t tell you that because then the rest of her actions don’t make sense,’ Rotunno told jurors. 

‘(She) is lying about the nature of her interactions with Harvey Weinstein or she’s telling the truth and she agrees to go to his home anyway. Either way it should raise serious doubts as to her credibility.’ 

Rotunno noted that the day after the alleged assault, Haleyi flew to Los Angeles on Weinstein’s expense. She took a car driven by a Weinstein employee even though she testified that she feared his driver who took her to his apartment was in on it. 

‘The next morning she’s getting in a car possibly driven by the same guy who took her to her assault. It makes absolutely no sense,’ Rotunno said.   

Rotunno said the emails offered ‘real-time evidence’ of what happened between Weinstein and the women. 

She pointed to the 2007 message from Haleyi asking how Weinstein was doing and signing off with ‘lots of love’ – the year after he allegedly sexually assaulted.

‘Not an email you send to your sexual assaulter, even in the world they want to create,’ Rotunno told jurors. ‘This is where you need to say, `Wait a minute – do I have doubt about the story she´s telling?´ How could you not?’ 

‘The government will tell you emails don’t matter. In what other circumstance would real time evidence not matter?’

Rotunno said that if somebody sent a kidnapper an email saying ‘thanks for the holiday!’ it would be relevant. 

She said prosecutors were trying to take a consensual sexual encounter and “spin it into something else”, thereby “stripping women of any ability to make their own decisions’.

Weinstein’s lawyers have argued that the two women’s interactions with Weinstein after the alleged attacks show that their encounters were consensual.  

Rotunno implied in closing arguments that Haleyi's attorney Gloria Allred (above in court Thursday) was in it for the money and knew there was a 'pot of gold at the end of the trial'

Rotunno implied in closing arguments that Haleyi’s attorney Gloria Allred (above in court Thursday) was in it for the money and knew there was a ‘pot of gold at the end of the trial’ 

To bolster the prosecution case, four additional women were called by prosecutors, including actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s. 

Rotunno put up a list of all the women whose names had come up with the trial. They were all grayed out apart from Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann – the two main accusers.

The defense said that they were the only cases that mattered and if the jury didn’t believe them they should acquit.     

Rotunno’s closing argument comes less than a week after she came under fire on social media for a podcast interview in which she blamed victims for getting sexually assaulted. 

Rotunno told The New York Times’ 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 January 28 – five days after opening statements and the start of testimony.  

The jury is expected to hear the prosecution’s closing argument on Friday.

Weinstein faces life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charge against him. 

The trial is a milestone for the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

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