Weinstein Is an ‘Abusive Rapist’ Who Controlled Victims, Prosecutor Says
Harvey Weinstein stayed in touch with women he assaulted to ensure their silence, a prosecutor said in her closing argument.by Jan Ransom and Alan Feuer
A prosecutor said on Friday that the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was “an abusive rapist” and “a predator” who used his power to manipulate and assault several women in the movie business, then stayed in touch with them to ensure their silence and compliance.
“He had a surefire insurance policy: The witnesses were standing in line to get into his universe,” Joan Illuzzi, an assistant district attorney, told the jury during her closing arguments at Mr. Weinstein’s rape trial.
“The universe is run by me,” she added, adopting Mr. Weinstein’s point of view, “therefore they don’t get to complain when the universe is run by me.”
Ms. Illuzzi’s summation of the case in State Supreme Court in Manhattan was a dramatic finale to the trial, which has emerged as a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement.
Mr. Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges in the case — including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault — which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Six women testified at trial that he had sexually assaulted them, though he faces charges in connection with only two of them. The others were allowed to testify to establish a pattern of behavior.
On Thursday, his lawyers made their own closing pitch to the jury, claiming that he himself had been the victim of an “overzealous prosecution” and that the six women who took the stand to accuse him of assault and other crimes were not passive victims, but active participants in ongoing and often transactional relationships.
Standing before the jury on Friday, Ms. Illuzzi sought to counter that narrative, arguing that Mr. Weinstein purposefully maintained ties with his victims to keep them under his control.
“He made sure he had contact with the people he was worried about,” Ms. Illuzzi said, adding, “That’s the mark of a predator.”
The indictment rests on the accusations of two women: Miriam Haley, a former reality television show production assistant who testified that Mr. Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at his TriBeCa apartment in 2006; and Jessica Mann, an aspiring actress from a small town in Washington State, who claimed he raped her in a Midtown Manhattan hotel room in 2013.
Both women acknowledged during cross-examination that they not only had friendly interactions with Mr. Weinstein after their alleged attacks, but later had consensual sex with him.
Four other women also testified that Mr. Weinstein attacked them in various ways — among them, the actress Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role in “The Sopranos.” She testified last month that Mr. Weinstein pushed his way into her Gramercy Park apartment in the winter months of 1993 or 1994 then violently raped her even as she kicked and punched him.
Prosecutors are using her testimony to support the top charge of predatory sexual assault, which carries a possible life sentence.
The accusations of Ms. Sciorra and three other accusers were barred by the statute of limitations from being charged as separate crimes. Still, the presiding judge, Justice James M. Burke allowed them to take the stand to bolster the prosecution’s contention that Mr. Weinstein engaged in a pattern of abusive behavior over decades.
Ms. Illuzzi stood directly in front of the jury delivering closing remarks in a conversational style and the occasional lighthearted quips. She began her closing remarks with the prosecution’s strongest witness: Ms. Sciorra.
The prosecutor acknowledged Ms. Sciorra never reported the alleged rape to the police, but she did tell her friend and fellow actress, Rosie Perez, though in veiled terms.
Not reporting the assault left Ms. Sciorra, who soon began self-harming, a damaged woman and made her vulnerable to further abuse by Mr. Weinstein, the prosecutor said. “The defendant knew her now as a weak link, a weak mark he could get again,” Ms. Illuzzi said.
Mr. Weinstein sought to control Ms. Sciorra again in August 2017, Ms. Illuzzi said, as rumors began to swirl that journalists were going to expose his sexual misconduct. That month, Mr. Weinstein hired an Israeli intelligence firm, Black Cube, to investigate certain “red flags” like Ms. Sciorra, whom Mr. Weinstein believed were speaking to reporters.
Ms. Illuzzi focused the jury’s attention on an email dated Oct. 26, 2017. In it, Mr. Weinstein instructed a subordinate to handle questions from Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker about his relationship with Ms. Sciorra by saying it was “consensual or deny it.”
After reading the email to the jury, Ms. Illuzzi said, “I submit to you, that’s a confession.”