Jury deliberations in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial started in a New York courtroom Tuesday. The jury of seven men and five women will decide the disgraced movie mogul’s fate.
Weinstein, 67, was charged with first-degree criminal sexual act, two counts of rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault. The charges are based on Miriam Haley’s testimony that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006 and Jessica Mann’s testimony that he raped her in 2013 during what she described as an abusive relationship.
Four other women, including actress Annabella Sciorra, also testified that Weinstein sexually attacked them as prosecutors sought to show that he used his power in the movie industry to prey on young, inexperienced women. Sciorra’s testimony that he raped her in the winter of 1993-1994 is outside of the statute of limitations, but it can be used to support the predatory sexual assault charges, which requires serious sex crimes against at least two victims.
However, Weinstein’s defense attorneys argued that the sexual encounters were consensual. As evidence, they pointed out that both Haley and Mann had sex with Weinstein after the alleged attacks, and they continued to have friendly contact with him for years afterward. He has also denied allegations of non-consensual sexual activity related to the other women.
The women’s testimonies highlighted thorny questions around consent and power dynamics at the heart of the #MeToo movement — questions that have rarely, if ever, been tested in a courtroom.
Once an acclaimed producer of movies such as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction,” Weinstein was accused by multiple women of a wide range of sexual misconduct in stories published in October 2017 in The New York Times and The New Yorker. A wave of similar claims against other influential men for allegedly abusing their power ensued in what is now known as the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein also faces charges of sexual assault and rape in separate incidents in Los Angeles.
Prior to deliberations on Tuesday, the judge overseeing Weinstein’s trial ordered that his defense refrain from communicating with the public or press until there is a verdict in the case. The order came after the prosecution said that a Newsweek op-ed written by Weinstein’s lead attorney Donna Rotunno was improper and a violation of court rules.
Judge James Burke cautioned the team about what he called the “tentacles” of their “public relations juggernaut.”
By Eric Levenson and Lauren del Valle, CNN