NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 24: Harvey Weinstein enters a Manhattan court house as a jury … [+]
Topline: Disgraced Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of criminal sexual act and rape in the third degree by a Manhattan jury Monday morning after almost 5 days of deliberations, bringing to a close one set of accusations in a landmark trial seen as emblematic of the three year old #MeToo movement.
- The verdict was reached after James Burke, the judge overseeing the trial, charged the jury with deadlock Friday for not being able to reach a unanimous verdict on the two most serious charges, predatory sexual assault.
- Weinstein, 67, pleaded not guilty to five felony accounts, including rape, preadatory of sexual assault and criminal sexual act, and has denied all allegations and said all sexual encounters were consensual.
- The charges were brought by two accusers, film production assistant Mimi Haleyi and a woman who did not make it clear whether she wished to be publicly identified, following revelations published by the New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017 that sparked the broader #MeToo movement and led to at least 100 women coming forward to accuse Weinstein.
- Six women testified against Weinstein during the trial, with three of the witnesses providing testimony about alleged sexual assaults not connected to the New York charges, which prosecutors hoped would establish a history of illegal behavior on Weinstein’s part.
Key background: The jury deliberations kicked off Tuesday amid accusations from prosecutors that Weinstein’s attorney, Donna Rotunno, had committed jury tampering by penning an op-ed Sunday in Newsweek. Burke took no action against him or Rotunno for the op-ed, but issued a reprimand in court Tuesday. Rotunno previously came under fire for giving an interview to the New York Times podcast The Daily, which she claimed took place before the trial began; the Times said the interview happened January 28, three weeks after the trial kicked off. Jurors were also instructed to take actress Annabella Sciorra’s testimony of an alleged mid-1990’s rape into account while weighing the predatory sexual assault charges, although the incident is too old to be charged on its own. Weinstein faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Rotunno defended Weinstein by painting his accusers as opportunists who consented to sex because it would help their careers. Prosecutors, however, argued that Weinstein treated his accusers like “ants that he could step on without consequences.”
What to watch for: Weinstein’s sentencing in the New York case, and what happens in his California criminal case. There he faces four felony counts of sexual assault filed January 6 by Los Angeles County district attorney Jackie Lacey. Those charges are connected to incidents that allegedly took place over two nights in February 2013.
Tangent: The #MeToo movement was founded by civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006. The hashtag, however, went viral on social media in 2017 following the Weinstein assault revelations published by the Times and The New Yorker.