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Harvey Weinstein found guilty of rape and sexual assault


by Jennifer McShane
24th Feb 2020

The disgraced Harvey Weinstein has been convicted of two counts of rape and sexual assault at a trial in New York. It almost seems incredulous; no doubt Weinstein and his legal team presumed he’d be let off the hook with nothing but a slap on the wrist. This is the long-awaited first step into the preditor finally facing accountability for his crimes


A jury of seven men and five women at the New York supreme court took five days to reach a verdict which is that he is guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree.

He had denied the allegations and said any sexual encounters were consensual.

Weinstein’s decades-long abuse of power is the reason the #MeToo movement gained momentum.

He is a symbol of the way influential men can abuse their power, unchecked and even aided by those around them. Hollywood has a history of protecting these men. Of shaming their victims into silence. This was not the case on Monday.

Related: If You Want To Know What Rape Culture Is, Look No Further Than The Weinstein Scandal

 

A complex case

All along there have been whispers of an acquittal, mainly due to the challenges of the case. Over 100 women accused him, but he stood trial in New York for assaulting only two, former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, then an aspiring actress, in 2013, and there was little physical evidence to go on.

Weinstein’s defense had framed the case as putting Me Too itself on trial, demanding that the jury rejected the “story [prosecutors] spun where women had no free will,” claiming that the women who took the stand for hours of testimony and cross-examination were doing so to get ahead in Hollywood.

Waging a war on the #MeToo movement as a tactic, didn’t work.

It’s true both women had complicated associations with the producer but the jury accepted the complex set of facts prosecutors laid out: that they could be raped or sexually assaulted by Weinstein on one day and be on “friendly” terms with him another and consent to sex with him — out of fear or denial, or out of deference to Weinstein’s economic power over them.

Related: ‘The sheriff in town’: Why the new Harvey Weinstein documentary is a must-watch about sexual assault

The verdict is also a landmark in more ways than one because it dismisses this notion of what a victim of sexual assault and violence “should” look like.

Repeat behaviour

Prosecutors also called several other accusers as witnesses. One of these women, Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, told jurors Weinstein came into her apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994 and raped her. Three other women – costume designer Dawn Dunning, model Tarale Wulff and actress Lauren Young – testified that they were enticed into meeting Weinstein for professional reasons and then groped or raped.

“Old” testimonies generally aren’t allowed used in such trails but an exception was made as they wanted to show the jury that Weinstein had a pattern of repeat behaviour.

The jury acquitted Weinstein on two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence, and the first degree rape of Mann.

He faces up to 25 years in prison and is to be sentenced on March 11th. His lawyers requested that he be kept in a prison infirmary while awaiting sentencing.

Reports then surfaced that Los Angeles prosecutors would move forward with their separate case against Weinstein.

Main photograph: @Complex


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