For a moment on Tuesday, it appeared that Harvey Weinstein might take the stand in his own defense at his rape trial in Manhattan.
For 30 minutes, Mr. Weinstein and his lawyers met in a private room, where they weighed the risks and benefits of him testifying. “‘I want to tell my story. I have something to say,’” Mr. Weinstein’s spokesman recounted his client telling the defense team.
But his lawyers instructed him not to speak, saying they did not believe that prosecutors had met their burden of proof in the case. So after the meeting, the lawyers and Mr. Weinstein returned to the courtroom, where he told the judge overseeing the trial that he would not testify.
Allowing a defendant to testify can be tricky for defense lawyers. Having Mr. Weinstein, the once powerful Hollywood producer, testify would have exposed him to a grueling cross-examination by prosecutors. His lawyers have argued that Mr. Weinstein’s accusers used him and engaged in consensual sexual encounters to advance their careers.
But if Mr. Weinstein were to take the stand, prosecutors would have likely tried to illicit testimony that would have portrayed the producer as a bullish, overbearing figure who had coerced women into unwanted sexual encounters. Mr. Weinstein’s statements would have also opened the door for prosecutors to call more witnesses to testify against him as part of a rebuttal case.
Mr. Weinstein, who produced movies such as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction,” has pleaded not guilty in State Supreme Court to five felony charges, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. If convicted on the predatory assault charge, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
Over three weeks, six women told the jury of seven men and five women that Mr. Weinstein attacked them. The heart of the criminal case, however, is largely based on the accounts of two of them: Jessica Mann, a former actress who said the producer raped her in 2013, and Miriam Haley, a former production assistant who said he forced oral sex on her in 2006.
The judge, Justice James M. Burke, allowed the other women to testify to allow prosecutors to establish a pattern of behavior, even though their allegations are too old to qualify as crimes under New York State law.
More than 90 women have accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct including rape, unwanted touching and harassment. The producer is also facing sexual assault charges in Los Angeles.
He maintains that all the sexual encounters he had with his accusers were consensual.