Closing arguments finished Friday in the rape trial of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Prosecutors made their final pitch to jurors the day after the defense made theirs.
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon described Weinstein as a domineering figure in his industry: he was master of his universe, and the witnesses were merely ants. They didn’t get to complain when he stepped on them, she said.
The women Weinstein victimized were in vulnerable positions, and the defendant often used his professional leverage against them, according to the prosecution. Former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, who said Weinstein sexually assaulted her in his apartment in 2006, didn’t immediately report it because she didn’t have a visa, and she was afraid of getting kicked out of the country, said Illuzzi-Orbon. Weinstein was aware of her immigration status, she said.
Former actress Jessica Mann, who said Weinstein raped her in 2013, wasn’t in a romantic relationship with him, said the prosecutor. She was his ragdoll. Illuzzi-Orbon compared the relationship to a child with an abusive parent. Mann, she said, left her small, religious town with little money and few possessions, and lacked real world experience. The prosecutor argued that Weinstein manipulated this alleged victim.
Defense lawyer Donna Rotunno said Thursday that the alleged victims told inconsistent stories, and turned against Weinstein after his reputation soured in October 2017 amid sexual assault allegations. She maintained Haleyi and Mann had consensual relationships with the defendant, and used him for their careers.
Illuzzi-Orbon said that the women had nothing to gain by testifying, asking rhetorically why they’d put their families through this terrible experience if they weren’t compelled. The prosecutor highlighted testimony from other alleged victims, whose cases aren’t being adjudicated. For example, it wasn’t a career booster for actress Annabella Sciorra to come forward. The prosecutor said that Weinstein was nervous about the thespian even before she stepped forward: Sciorra’s name was on a red flag list from Wednesday, July 26, 2013, years before she announced her allegation, and even before the movie mogul’s reputation fell apart. Illuzzi-Orbon cited testimony from private investigator Sam Anson, who said Weinstein seemed nervous about women coming forward.
Women who weren’t on the red flag list included other alleged victims like Mann, who lacked power in the industry, according to the prosecutor. They were vulnerable. That’s why they spoke nicely to him. The question was not whether Mann made a bad decision, but whether she lied about it, the prosecutor said. If telling the truth, she is a victim of rape who is trapped and doesn’t see options.
Deliberations in the case are expected to begin Tuesday. The defense has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
Jesse Weber contributed to this report.
[Image via Stephanie Keith/Getty Images]