By Desiree Rios
New York – They will say that it was not a unanimous decision and that the jury declared Harvey Weinstein innocent of the most serious charges in the case. However, the expression of amazement on his face after hearing the jury’s verdict and feeling the wives on his wrists on February 24 was clear evidence that the once powerful producer received a devastating blow.
On the opposite side, for Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, it should be a relief to be able to presume his victory against Weinstein, although partial, given the criticism he suffered for not having filed charges at a previous opportunity.RELATED
Weinstein was found guilty of two of the five charges, first-degree sexual assault and third-degree rape, and acquitted of the others, first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault. It is not unusual for there to be these kinds of divided verdicts.
Weinstein, 67, will spend at least five years in jail from the time Judge James M. Burke of the Manhattan State Supreme Court gives him a ruling at the respective hearing, set for March 11 . Burke could sentence Weinstein to a maximum of twenty-nine years in prison, if he decides to impose the maximum sentence for the two charges of which he was convicted and instructs that the sentences be served consecutively.
Next we analyze some key points of the verdict.
1. The jury considered the statement of the first prosecutor’s prosecutor, Miriam Haley, to be entirely reliable.
When Haley, who was a production assistant on the TV show “Project Runway,” testified in January, he told a heartbreaking story about the occasion when Weinstein dragged her into the bedroom of her apartment in Lower Manhattan, where the woman He had gone to see him one night in July 2006. He said he tried to dissuade him on the pretext that he was menstruating, but Weinstein held her and practiced oral sex by force.
The jury’s decision to convict Weinstein for first-degree sexual assault based on this story is important because Haley’s testimony was not exactly ideal. He acknowledged that he had kept in touch with Weinstein after that night and that he went to see him two weeks later at the TriBeCa Grand hotel, where he had sex with him.
During the cross-examination, Haley acknowledged that, although he sobbed while the second sexual encounter occurred, “he did not oppose physical resistance.”
2. Physical force was perhaps the aspect that prevented a unanimous decision regarding rape charges.
Jessica Mann, an aspiring actress, told the jury an equally complicated story. During his testimony, he described with great detail that Weinstein, after injecting a drug to cause an erection into his penis, cornered her in the bathroom of a hotel room in Manhattan and raped her.
Like Haley, Mann acknowledged that he had kept in touch with Weinstein after the described attack and also had consensual sex with him.
The jury found Weinstein guilty of the charge of rape in the third degree, which exists when an attacker has sex with someone without his consent, based on Mann’s account. However, he was declared innocent of rape in the first degree, since that crime required demonstrating that there had been “forceful coercion” in the attack.
The split decision suggests that, although the jury believed that Mann did not openly consent to the sexual encounter with Weinstein, he was not convinced that the producer had physically forced her to have sex.
3. Annabella Sciorra’s testimony did not help the prosecution much.
Among the breaks in which she burst into tears, Sciorra told the jury that Weinstein had pushed her into her apartment in Gramercy Park sometime in the winter of 1993 or 1994 and raped her even though she didn’t stop kicking him and hitting him to try to escape .
Under the New York crime prescription legislation, the events reported by Sciorra were too old to file charges for that crime separately. However, his story was used to accuse Weinstein of two instances of predatory sexual assault, a crime that exists when an aggressor attacks at least two different victims.
The jury declared Weinstein innocent of both charges of predatory sexual assault, which are the most serious, since each involves a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
It is not clear what prompted the jury’s decision to acquit Weinstein of the charges, but Sciorra’s account had several problematic points.
For example, he acknowledged that he did not remember exactly the month or year in which the attack had occurred. Weinstein’s lawyers also obtained the testimony of a former friend of Sciorra, Paul Feldsher, who claimed that, shortly after the incident, Sciorra had not described it as a violation, but as “something crazy” he had done with Weinstein. The defense also placed the administrator of the Sciorra building on the stand, who said Weinstein could not have entered his apartment without his authorization.
4. The verdict represented a victory for Cyrus Vance, Jr., Manhattan district attorney.
Although the jury declared Weinstein innocent of most of the charges, the verdict represented a significant achievement for Vance and his office, a reward for the enormous risk he took when he decided to promote the trial against Weinstein.
Vance, a Democrat who has long considered himself an ally of the feminist movement, was under enormous pressure to press charges against Weinstein after The New York Times and The New Yorker published explosive articles, in October 2017, with stories of several women who accused Weinstein of abuse and harassment since the early 1990s.
Vance was in a position particularly susceptible to pressure given his own experience with cases of sexual crimes.
In April 2015, his prosecutors gave up on filing charges against Weinstein after an Italian model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, accused him of handling her during a business meeting at his office in Lower Manhattan. With the help of detectives, Battilana Gutierrez later made a recording in which Weinstein seemed to admit that he had touched her. Prosecutors decided that she was a problematic witness because she had told different stories in an independent case of sexual assault in Italy.
After hearing the verdict on February 24, Vance told reporters during a press conference: “It’s a new day because Harvey Weinstein will finally pay for the crimes he has committed.”
5. It is possible that the verdict produces changes in the way of presenting complex cases of sexual crimes.
In general, prosecutors have been reluctant to file rape cases in which witnesses admit to having had consensual sexual relations with their attacker on other occasions.
Of course, within romantic relationships rapes can occur, and in fact they occur, as in the case of abusive marriages. The problem is that among the prosecutors the idea is very entrenched that, in such cases, the jury may think that the accusers are not so reliable, so it is more difficult to prove the crime, so they prefer not to promote them.
Prosecutors led by Vance set out to employ a strategy that was successful in the second trial of comedian Bill Cosby: they convinced Burke to allow them to present three additional witnesses whose stories were not related to any charges, but reinforced their argument about the pattern of abusive behavior from Weinstein.
Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Manhattan State Supreme Court on February 21, 2020.
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