Weinstein Guilty Verdict "Marks a New Era of Justice," Time's Up Says

Harvey Weinstein enters New York City Criminal Court on February 24, 2020 - Getty-H 2020
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It's the highest profile verdict since accusations against the mogul kickstarted the hashtag #MeToo and the wave of sexual misconduct claims against top figures across all industries.

A year and a half after Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment settlements were first revealed, the former Hollywood mogul was convicted on Monday of two of five potential criminal charges, including rape, by a Manhattan jury of seven men and five women. 

“This trial — and the jury’s decision today — marks a new era of justice, not just for the Silence Breakers, who spoke out at great personal risk, but for all survivors of harassment, abuse and assault at work," stated Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the Time's Up Foundation, which was formed in Jan. 2018 to prevent sexual harassment across all industries. 

Tchen added: "We owe a debt of gratitude to Mimi Haley, Jessica Mann, Annabella Sciorra, Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff and Lauren Young and all the Silence Breakers for their bravery and resolve as they faced this man in court. We continue to believe them — all of them — and continue to be in solidarity with them."

The Silence Breakers group, formed by actresses Ashley Judd, Caitlin Dulany, Dawn Dunning and many others, released their own statement, saying, "While it is disappointing that today’s outcome does not deliver the true, full justice that so many women deserve, Harvey Weinstein will now forever be known as a convicted serial predator. This conviction would not be possible without the testimony of the courageous women and the many women who have spoken out."

The Silence Breakers added, "Despite intimidation from Weinstein’s legal team, they courageously shared their stories with the jury, the courtroom and the world. This has been a flawed process from the beginning but has further exposed the difficulties women face in coming forward to tell the truth about powerful abusers. Their bravery will forever be remembered in history."

#MeToo founder Tarana Burke said after the verdict that Weinstein will now "have to answer for his crimes." Her statement read: "Today, a jury confirmed what we all know: Harvey Weinstein committed sexual assault. This wouldn’t have been possible without the voices of the silence breakers in and outside of the courtroom, the survivors who courageously testified, and the jurors who, despite an unrelenting and unethical defense strategy, voted to find an unremorseful Harvey Weinstein guilty."

RAINN, the anti-sexual violence organization, released a statement after the verdict from president and founder Scott Berkowitz adding, "We hope that survivors everywhere will feel encouraged to come forward knowing that juries — and society — will believe them."

The New York trial formally began on Jan. 6 and included testimony from actresses Annabella Sciorra, Dawn Dunning, Jessica Mann and Tarale Wulff and, model Lauren Young and former production assistant Miriam Haley, who all leveled sexual assault claims against Weinstein. 

The prosecution, lead by Manhattan assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi, had described Weinstein in its closing argument on Feb. 14 as "the master of his universe, and the witnesses here were really ants whom he could step on without consequences." The defense, led by attorney Donna Rotunno, had argued that, "The district attorney has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt."

The decision by the jury marks the highest profile verdict since accusations against Weinstein kickstarted the hashtag #MeToo and the wave of sexual misconduct claims against top figures across all industries. The settlements that Weinstein made over the course of three decades to women who had accused him of harassment were first revealed by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on Oct. 5, 2017. 

At the time, Weinstein's response to the story was to say, "I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different" but also said he wanted "a second chance in the community." (A day earlier, when The Hollywood Reporter published a story noting that Weinstein's attorneys were battling the Times, Harvey went so far as to brag in a statement, saying, "The story sounds so good, I want to buy the movie rights.")

Then on Oct. 10, 2017, The New Yorker published an account by Ronan Farrow (who had initially hoped to bring his reporting to NBC News), that detailed multiple claims of sexual assault against the mogul. Dozens of claims — eventually totaling more than 80 — then followed in multiple news outlets as well as on social media as more women went public against Weinstein. (In response to the Feb. 24 verdict, Farrow tweeted: "Today’s outcome in Harvey Weinstein’s New York trial is the result of the decisions of multiple women to come forward to journalists and to prosecutors at great personal cost and risk. Please keep those women in your thoughts today.")

One week after Farrow's 2017 report, Harvey had stepped down from The Weinstein Co. board and had been expelled by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Producers Guild of America.

In March 2018, the mogul's namesake company (which had 277 films in its library) filed for bankruptcy. Several months later, Lantern Entertainment won a bid for the TWC assets at an auction with a $310 million cash offer and assumption of debt. A year after the bankruptcy, Lantern made a deal with former MGM chief Gary Barber to oversee the TWC film assets in a partnership with Spyglass Media Group. 

Weinstein was arrested for rape in New York on May 25, 2018, seven months after the accusations were first reported. At the time, his then-attorney, Benjamin Brafman, stated, "I anticipate the women who made these allegations when subjected to cross-examination, in the event that we even get that far, that the charges will not be believed." 

In January 2019, Weinstein and Brafman parted ways, with the attorney offering the "best of luck as he defends the case." Weinstein shook up his legal team multiple times, including hiring former Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez, who departed in June 2019, the same month former Cook County (Illinois) prosecutor Rotunno began representing him. Weinstein's trial had been delayed from May 6, 2019 to June 3 to Sept. 9 and then pushed to its January start date. 

As the Weinstein claims mounted and other Hollywood figures were accused of misconduct, industry notables launched several new initiatives. In Dec. 2017, the Anita Hill-chaired Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace was organized by Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy, Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel, talent attorney Nina Shaw and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein.

Many others joined to launch the Time's Up initiative in January 2018. "It’s well past time to change the culture of the environment where most of us spend the majority of our day — the workplace," wrote showrunner Shonda Rhimes in the group's first letter. The Time's Up legal defense fund was also established to advocate across industries to prevent sexual harassment. 

Hollywood guilds and production companies also instituted new changes as a result of #MeToo movement. In early 2018, the film Academy's board of governors added ways for members to report workplace misconduct and new disciplinary procedures. SAG-AFTRA revised its code of conduct to "better define what harassment is, and what members’ rights are in real-world situations," as did the Writers Guild, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild. 

And, this January, the Los Angeles district attorney's office charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women in Beverly Hills in Feb. 2013. For those charges, if convicted, Weinstein could face up to 28 years in prison. D.A. Jackie Lacey said at the time, "We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them." 

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris referenced the L.A. charges in a statement after the verdict saying, "Justice was served today and Harvey Weinstein was held accountable for his crimes. But it is only a beginning. We look forward to the Weinstein prosecution in Los Angeles where he will be brought to answer for other offenses."

Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of the site Women and Hollywood, wrote on Monday: "Harvey is far from the only predator in the film industry. We cannot lose sight of this fact. Today is a big step forward towards a more equitable, safe Hollywood, but this fight will be ongoing. Accountability doesn't end here — it begins."