The Prosecution Makes Final Case Against "Abusive Rapist" Harvey Weinstein

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon arrives at New York City Criminal Court on January 22, 2020 in New York City - Getty - H 2020
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On Friday morning, lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi put a bow on the State of New York’s case against Harvey Weinstein, calling the former movie mogul an “abusive rapist” who manipulated and abused women who wanted to break into the entertainment industry.

Weinstein, she said, viewed himself as “the master of his universe, and the witnesses here were really ants whom he could step on without consequences.”

Illuzzi argued that Weinstein kept in touch with his alleged victims, through email exchanges that have been seized on by the defense, “as a little check” to make sure they wouldn’t make accusations against him. The two primary witnesses in the case, Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley, both faced questions during their testimony about why they stayed in touch with Weinstein, occasionally sending him “loving” emails.

Finishing up her presentation on Friday afternoon, Illuzzi fiercely defended the motives of the six women who have testified in recent weeks that Weinstein sexually assaulted them.

"They didn't come for money," she said. "They didn't come for fame. They came to be heard. They sacrificed their dignity, their privacy and their peace."

She began by talking about Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein raped her in the winter of 1993. “Her life was good, really good,” she said. “And the defendant took away that happiness. He took away her peace.”

Without using a microphone, Illuzzi spoke directly to the men and women of the jury, pacing back and forth while making her points with animated gestures.

Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s lead defense attorney, said in her closing argument on Thursday that the prosecution has "weaved a story" over the last few weeks to paint Weinstein as a “monster.”

"The district attorney has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt," she told the 12 men and women of the jury. "On behalf of Mr. Weinstein, we are imploring you to have the courage to tell them that by saying 'not guilty.'"

On Friday, Illuzzi contested Rotunno’s suggestion that Sciorra invented her accusation against Weinstein so she could become a “star again,” adding: “She has new agents. Now, she’s the darling of the movement of the minute.” (Her talent agency, CAA, contested that characterization.)

“How Hollywood movie star is it for Annabella Sciorra to have to tell you that she was cutting herself and she was dabbing her blood with a tissue, putting it on the wall and putting gold foil over it?” Illuzzi asked the jury. “Do you think that’s a career booster?”

Illuzzi said that Weinstein was particularly worried about Sciorra coming forward because “she is in his world” and is friends with powerful people. The other five accusers in the case, she said, are “complete disposables” to him.

She also accused former film producer Paul Feldsher of a “complete fiction” when he testified last week that Sciorra had downplayed her interaction with Weinstein in a conversation in the early 1990s. “He’s here to help a pal,” she said.

Weinstein, 67, faces five criminal charges: two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree criminal sexual act, one court of rape in the first degree and one count of rape in the third degree. If convicted of predatory sexual assault, Weinstein could be sentenced to life in jail.

Weinstein is accused of raping Mann in March 2013. "The question for you is not whether Jessica Mann made a bad decision," Illuzzi said when talking about Mann's "relationship" with Weinstein. "The question for you is whether Jessica Mann is lying about it. If she's telling you the truth, she was raped."

As evidence of Mann's character, she told the jurors that Mann had refused an envelope of cash from Weinstein. Mann had faced a withering three-day-long cross-examination by Rotunno, at one point breaking down and having to leave the stand.

"She sat here and she took it," Illuzzi said of her testimony. "Three days' worth, and she owned her behavior for the chance to come here and tell you, 'Harvey Weinstein raped me.'"

The prosecutor criticized the defense's focus on the fact that the accusers sought out legal representation. "If you were navigating this situation, would you want to consult with a lawyer?" she asked the jury. "Would you want to know how this was going to go?"

Raising her voice, Illuzzi pointed to the lawyers surrounding Weinstein in the court room. "How dare he, with five lawyers sitting there every day from every state, complain about how these women have a lawyer," she said. 

The jury will begin deliberation on Tuesday morning.

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