Jury deliberations have started today in the trial of Harvey Weinstein for rape and assault. His lawyer Donna Rotunno has made a public appeal to jurors on the case.
A look at the charges toward Harvey Weinstein, 67, and the punishment the once-revered Hollywood titan could face if condemned.
A jury of seven men and five women started judging Tuesday in the closely watched #MeToo trial. To condemn or acquit Weinstein on any charge, their verdict must be unanimous.
As published, Donna Rotunno’s op-ed on February 16, days before the jury was set to start deliberations in Weinstein’s case. In her piece, she urges members of the jury to “look past the headlines” and “do what they know is right.”
An article provoked the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and on Tuesday the lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi, called Ms. Rotunno’s behavior “inappropriate,” and tantamount to jury tampering.
The judge ordered the defense team not to speak to the news media until after a verdict is reached.
“Defense team you are ordered to refrain from communicating with the press until there is a verdict in the case,” Justice James M. Burke said Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers. “I would caution you about the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut.”
Scores of women have come forward in recent years to accuse Weinstein of sexual misbehavior. though the New York City trial of Harvey Weinstein stems from just three allegations.
The “Pulp Fiction” producer is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman, TV, and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi, at his apartment in July 2006.
The most severe charge, predatory sexual assault, demands jurors to decide two things: if he raped actress Annabella Sciorra in the mid-1990s and if he acted one of the charged deeds.
On Sunday, February 16, a report issued an op-ed by Rotunno in which she straightly addresses jurymen in the trial of Harvey Weinstein’s case before consultations. She says that jurors are instructed by judges to “avoid all media coverage and outside influences” when they make their determination, although that this is impossible in a high-profile case like Weinstein’s.
Rotunno states: “The mocking of Mr. Weinstein’s walker, the unflattering courtroom-artist sketches of his body, the countless critical op-eds, and biased stories, and the convenient timing of the politically-motivated charges in Los Angeles were all designed to pre-determine his guilt.”
The prosecution also accused Rotunno of calling the witnesses liars who were seeking fame. The judge commanded Rotunno and the defense team to withdraw discussing witnesses.
A ChicagoMag profile of Donna Rotunno from 2018 announces she has taken about 40 sexual misconduct cases as a criminal defense attorney. According to this profile, her former clients include high-profile names like past Bears cornerback Shaun Gayle, Islamic leader Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, and others that she won’t identify.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Rotunno explained why she took Weinstein’s case: “Everyone deserves a defense,” she stated. “I think for me — why I take these cases — is I do believe we can be effective for him.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she replied that she doesn’t believe the #MeToo movement has helped women and that women are “responsible for the choices that they make.”
She continued that “women need to be heard, which is different than women needing to be believed.” In another interview, she added that “we are in an era of conviction by the allegation.”
Prosecutors responded on Monday by calling the op-ed a “jury tampering.” Responded to try and requesting that Burke remand Weinstein and sanction Rotunno.
Following Burke’s stern notice on Tuesday, jurors started deliberations around 11:30 a.m. The 12-person jury will consider charges that Weinstein raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performed oral sex on another woman, TV, and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi, in 2006.
Each of the predatory sexual assault counts is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.
The first-degree rape and criminal sex act count each carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Third-degree rape carries a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison.
Win or lose, Weinstein faces more criminal charges in a California case announced last month, just as his New York trial was getting underway.
In that matter, Weinstein accused of sexually assaulted. Assaults of one woman and raping another on back-to-back nights days before the Oscars in February 2013.