The longer his sexual assault trial went on, the more confident Harvey Weinstein appeared.
Even as he faced the threat of life in prison, Weinstein often met reporters with a knowing smirk as he shuffled in and out of a Manhattan courtroom with the aid of a walker during his six-week trial. He’d crack jokes about his back surgery and fire off quips in response to substantive questions, one day dismissing a woman’s emotional testimony as “total bull—.”
But as New York court officers took him by the arms Monday, the bravado drained from the fallen Hollywood titan. He looked around as if confused when a pair of handcuffs clicked onto his wrists, possibly marking the end of his life outside a city or state prison cell.
Weinstein, 67, was convicted Monday of one count of committing a criminal sexual act and one count of rape, ending a trial that was in many ways a validation of the #MeToo movement — and a sign to some that power and influence may no longer equal invincibility for men accused of sexual misconduct.
“For once, he won’t be sitting comfortably,” said actress Rose McGowan, who has alleged Weinstein raped her in 1997. “For once, he will know what it’s like to have power wrapped around his neck.”
Weinstein, who has denied any wrongdoing despite claims of sexual assault and misconduct from more than 80 women since 2017, faces up to 29 years in prison when he is sentenced March 11. Weinstein’s attorneys have said they will appeal.
“Rape is rape, and sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter what. Rape is rape, whether it’s committed by a stranger in a dark alley or by an intimate partner in a relationship,” Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance Jr. told reporters after the verdict. “It’s rape, whether it’s committed by an indigent person or a man of immense power, prestige and privilege.”
The convictions stemmed from the accusations of two women who said Weinstein used his influence in Hollywood to lure them into hotel rooms or his apartment, where he violently assaulted them.
Mimi Haley, a former producer on “Project Runway,” said she went to Weinstein’s SoHo apartment in 2006 to try to repair their splintering professional relationship, but he became aggressive and forced oral sex on her. Jessica Mann, a once-aspiring actress who said she was in a consensual but abusive relationship with Weinstein, claimed he showed up unannounced at a Midtown Manhattan hotel in 2013 and violently raped her.
Weinstein avoided a potential life sentence when the jury acquitted him of two counts of predatory sexual assault. That charge would have required jurors to convict him of assaulting Haley or Mann and former “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra.
Sciorra had accused Weinstein of barging into her Gramercy Park apartment in the early 1990s and violently raping her after the two had attended an industry dinner. While some legal experts considered Sciorra the prosecution’s strongest witness, her case was too old to prosecute. Weinstein’s attorneys often pounced on the fact that she could not remember the exact year the alleged attack took place.
“My testimony was painful but necessary. I spoke for myself and with the strength of the eighty plus victims of Harvey Weinstein in my heart. While we hope for continued righteous outcomes that bring absolute justice, we can never regret breaking the silence,” Sciorra said in a statement Monday after the verdict.
Three other women — Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff and Lauren Young — also testified during the trial, describing alleged abuses committed by Weinstein that were either too old to prosecute or happened outside the jurisdiction of Manhattan prosecutors. Vance credited the six women who testified and prosecutors Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Meghan Hast with changing “the course of history in the fight against sexual violence.”
Neither prosecutor spoke to reporters after the verdict, though Hast flashed a relieved smile to a throng of reporters outside the courtroom. Illuzzi-Orbon served as a counterpuncher through much of the trial, growing visibly agitated and biting back at aggressive cross-examinations of the victims by Weinstein’s attorneys.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge James Burke ordered Weinstein remanded until his sentencing. Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s lead attorney, pleaded with the judge to consider house arrest, describing him as being in worse health than he already appeared to be.
The Miramax co-founder underwent back surgery in December, which Rotunno described as a “failure” in court Monday. She also said Weinstein has been on a raft of medication that included eye injections to prevent him from going blind.
Late Monday, Weinstein was taken to Bellevue Hospital with chest palpitations and high blood pressure, his attorney said. She said he is expected to be OK.
Juda Engelmayer, Weinstein’s chief spokesman, said he is hoping Weinstein will be placed in protective custody or treated at Rikers Island’s infirmary unit.
“While he was not convicted on the most serious charges, we are disappointed in the verdict and will be filing an appeal,” Engelmayer said in a statement. “There are issues in this trial that were extremely troubling, and they prejudiced Mr. Weinstein’s ability to have his case fairly judged. These will be addressed to a higher court.”
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Rotunno said she believed the defense won on the merits of the evidence presented but could not overcome the jury’s preconceived notions about Weinstein.
“We knew that we came in and we were down 35 to nothing at the start of this trial,” she said. “Jurors came in knowing everything that they could know about this case.”
With no forensic evidence or corroborating witnesses, much of the case came down to whether the jury would find the accusers more credible than their alleged assailant, making the prosecution something of a litmus test of one of the #MeToo movement’s central themes — that women who make rape accusations should be believed.
Weinstein did not take the stand in his own defense. Rotunno and attorney Damon Cheronis instead slashed at each accuser’s story, questioning their motives for staying in touch with Weinstein after the dates of the alleged assaults or attempting to paint the encounters as consensual.
Rotunno often made arguments that seemed to double as sideswipes of the #MeToo movement, while trying to insinuate that the accusers were manipulating Weinstein for personal gain.
“In their story, they’ve created a universe that strips adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility. It’s offensive, actually,” she said earlier this month.
Illuzzi-Orbon, however, argued the immense influence wielded by Weinstein allowed him to create a climate of fear around his victims. Not only did his potential power over their careers keep them from reporting his alleged crimes, she said, but it also led some women to stay in touch with him after alleged assaults.
“When you have to trick somebody to be in your control ... then you know that you don’t have consent,” she said during her closing argument.
After his March sentencing, Weinstein faces further legal jeopardy in Los Angeles County, where Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey filed four counts of sexual assault against him last month. The cases stem from a pair of alleged 2013 assaults in Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles. One of the two accusers, Lauren Young, testified as a prior bad acts witness in the New York case.
Through a spokesman, Los Angeles Deputy Dist. Atty Paul Thompson said he was “definitely proceeding,” with the case, but it remains unclear when that might happen.
Victims of sexual violence met news of the verdict with a mix of relief and shock. Many of the defense’s arguments mirrored those commonly used to undercut rape allegations, they said, and the jury’s announcement that it was deadlocked Friday on the predatory sexual assault charges also left some fearing a mistrial was imminent.
“This is a huge day. I’m crying right now, because I expected the worst,” said Zoe Brock, a New Zealand-born former model who has accused Weinstein of rape and was among six women who filed a class-action suit in 2017 against Weinstein and the studio he co-founded. “Because for us, the worst keeps happening. In Hollywood, especially for sexual assault victims, the worst keeps happening.”
Times staff writers Laura Newberry, Leila Miller and Stacy Perman contributed to this report from Los Angeles.