Who’s Who in the Harvey Weinstein Trial

Who’s Who in the Harvey Weinstein Trial


Jury deliberations began this week in the trial of Harvey Weinstein, setting the stage for a watershed moment that will test whether the allegations that helped ignite the #MeToo movement can sustain a conviction against a man who was once one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood.

Mr. Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to five felony charges, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. His lawyers have argued that his accusers engaged in consensual and often transactional relationships with him to advance their careers.

If convicted of the most serious charge against him, predatory sexual assault, Mr. Weinstein could be sentenced to life in prison.

Here’s a look at some of the key figures in the trial.

THE JUDGE

The task of presiding over the trial has fallen to James M. Burke, a former prosecutor appointed to the bench in 2001. Justice Burke clashed with Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers early in the trial after the judge suggested that Mr. Weinstein might end up in prison for life for repeatedly violating an order not to use his cellphone in court. Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers argued that the comments were evidence of bias and asked the judge to recuse himself. Justice Burke refused, saying he was merely using “hyperbolic language.”

The 12 jurors who will decide Mr. Weinstein’s fate were chosen after an arduous two-week process during which the prosecution argued that the defense was systematically eliminating white women from the panel, even though a majority of Mr. Weinstein’s accusers were from that demographic. In the end, the jury included seven men and five women, two of them white women. Among them are a public housing worker, an Upper East Side businessman, an East Harlem security guard, the managing partner of an investment firm, a banking executive, the co-founder of a start-up, a real estate tax accountant and a lawyer whose sister is a federal prosecutor in Chicago.

THE DEFENSE

Donna Rotunno, Mr. Weinstein’s lead defense lawyer, is a brash and outspoken combatant in the cultural wars and in the courtroom. A former Illinois prosecutor, she has been hailed as “a bulldog” by the men she has defended from sexual misconduct charges. Ms. Rotunno has lost only one sex-crime trial, and has been known to wear a gold chain to court bearing the proclamation “Not Guilty.” She has assailed the #MeToo movement, arguing that it has wrecked reputations and careers without due process, and has contended that women bear equal responsibility for protecting themselves from sexual assault. In a recent interview on “The Daily,” she said she had never been sexually assaulted “because I would never put myself in that position.”

Damon Cheronis, Ms. Rotunno’s frequent legal collaborator, is a Chicago lawyer who specializes in defending clients against serious state and federal charges. He has called the trial of Mr. Weinstein the “type of case that trial lawyers live for.”

Arthur Aidala, the sole New York-based lawyer on the team, is a frequent commentator on Fox News who has defended other prominent men accused of sexual misconduct, including Roger Ailes, Alan Dershowitz and Lawrence Taylor, the former N.F.L. linebacker.

Defense witness

Among the key witnesses called by the defense was Talita Maia, a former friend of one of Mr. Weinstein’s two main accusers, Jessica Mann. Ms. Mann has said that Mr. Weinstein raped her, but Ms. Maia testified that Ms. Mann had described Mr. Weinstein as her “spiritual soul mate” and had never said that he had assaulted her. “She would say he is a wonderful person,” Ms. Maia said. “There was flirtation between them since the first day.”

Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers also called several other witnesses to bolster their claim that the relationships were consensual or cast doubt on his accusers’ accounts. One of those witnesses was Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist who suggested that Mr. Weinstein’s accusers might not recall incidents from years ago. “It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know that memory fades over time,” she said.

The defendant

Harvey Weinstein was for years a Hollywood kingmaker, turning out Oscar-winning movies and presenting himself as a champion of liberal causes, even as he was shadowed by sexual misconduct allegations. Then, in October 2017, an investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades. Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Rosanna Arquette were among the actors who accused Mr. Weinstein of misconduct. More than 90 women have since come forward to allege sexual misconduct by Mr. Weinstein, though the trial hinges on accounts from just two key accusers, Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley. Mr. Weinstein has maintained that all the encounters were consensual.

THE PROSECUTION

The trial represents a critical test for Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, who has been criticized for not pursuing charges against Mr. Weinstein in 2015. Mr. Vance has said there was not enough evidence to prosecute the case, despite an audio tape that an Italian model, Ambra Battilana, made for the police on which Mr. Weinstein apologized when she asked him why he had touched her breasts. Mr. Vance, who was elected in 2009 on a promise to aggressively pursue sex crimes, has worked to clear a backlog of rape-evidence kits and convict people charged with the sex trafficking of minors. A conviction of Mr. Weinstein could help restore his reputation as a champion of women’s issues. A loss could damage his legacy and political fortunes.

Regarded as one of the most successful prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Joan Illuzzi has been in charge of Mr. Weinstein’s case since April 2018, when the allegations against him were still under investigation. She is known for securing the 2017 conviction of the former bodega stock clerk who killed Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who disappeared in 1979 as he walked to his school bus stop in SoHo. In 2016, she ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for district attorney on Staten Island.

Meghan Hast, the second prosecutor on the team, has offered graphic details in the trial, such as when she said Mr. Weinstein injected erection medication into his genitals and showed up in his underwear outside the hotel room of the actress Annabella Sciorra, with baby oil in one hand and a videotape in the other. Ms. Hast joined the Manhattan district attorney’s office in 2007. In 2018, she was named deputy chief of the Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit, which prosecutes interstate gun traffickers, armed street gangs and drug dealers.

Six women testified for the prosecution that Mr. Weinstein attacked them, though the charges he faces were based on the allegations of two main accusers: Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley.

Ms. Mann, an aspiring actress raised in Washington State, said Mr. Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013. Her case was challenging for prosecutors because she said she was assaulted during a long relationship with Mr. Weinstein that included some consensual sex. Ms. Mann said she had maintained the relationship to protect her career and defuse Mr. Weinstein’s “unpredictable anger.”

Ms. Haley, a former assistant on a TV show produced by Mr. Weinstein, said he forced oral sex on her at his home in 2006. Two weeks later, Ms. Haley said, she reluctantly had sex with Mr. Weinstein in a hotel. She said she also sent him emails, took a work meeting and approached him at film events because she wanted to “just put it away in a box and pretended like it didn’t happen.”

The actress Annabella Sciorra, known for her work in “The Sopranos,” testified in detail about the night in late 1993 or early 1994 when she said Mr. Weinstein shoved his way into her Manhattan apartment and sexually assaulted her as she tried to fight him off. The incident was too old to be prosecuted under state law. But prosecutors obtained an indictment from a grand jury that let Ms. Sciorra testify in support of the predatory assault charge, which requires the state to prove that Mr. Weinstein committed a serious sexual offense against at least two people.

Three other women — Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff and Lauren Young — also appeared for the prosecution as so-called Molineux witnesses, testifying about alleged sexual assaults that are not part of the indictment; their testimony was sought to demonstrate a pattern of predatory behavior by Mr. Weinstein. Molineux witnesses, also known as prior bad act” witnesses” were used to help convict Bill Cosby of sexual assault during his second trial in 2018.

Reporting was contributed by Jan Ransom, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and James C. McKinley Jr.



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