news 8 months ago

Weinstein Prosecutor’s Closing Argument: Accusers Sacrificed Dignity & Privacy To Be Heard – Update

Deadline — Greg Evans

UPDATED with more details: Closing arguments in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein concluded Friday, with the prosecution getting that last word: The women who came forward to testify “sacrificed their dignity and sacrificed their privacy to have their voices heard,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said before insisting that Weinstein is guilty on all charges.

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 are navigating a very difficult industry,” Illuzzi said about Jessica Mann, Miriam Haley and the four others 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 is “work that looks like play.”

In repeated entreaties to the jury to judge only the witnesses’ honesty and not their choices, 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 bad decision, but was Jessica Mann lying…If she’s telling you the truth, she’s the victim of rape.”

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.

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.”

Earlier today, the prosecutor derided Thursday’s allegation by the defense that accuser Annabella Sciorra made up her rape accusation against the ex-mogu 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 with the 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 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 the prosecution’s closing arguments today by suggesting the case against Weinstein is about “power, manipulation and abuse” and the “wanton lack of human empathy that most of us possess.”

Describing Weinstein’s approach to the women he allegedly attacked, said Illuzzi, is “This universe is run by me so they don’t get to complain…” The prosecutor described Weinstein as “an abusive rapist” who maintained contact with his victims “to make sure that one day that they won’t step out of the shadows and accuse him of what he was.”

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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