- 24 Feb 20
After five days of deliberations, the jury in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial returned a 'guilty' verdict on two out of five counts today. The result has been hailed as a potential watershed moment for women, in the battle against sexual harassment and sexual predators...
The Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape and of committing a criminal sex act, in a court in New York today.
The twelve-person jury – comprising seven men and five women – answered ‘Guilty’ to two of the five charges which had been levelled at Weinstein by the New York District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr.
The two guilty verdicts relate to (a) the sex attack carried out by Weinstein on the former production assistant, Miriam Haley, and (b) the rape of a woman whose name is being withheld by some media because her intentions in relation to identification have not been made clear.
Immediately following the announcement of the guilty verdict, Harvey Weinstein was handcuffed and taken into custody. The crimes of which he has been found guilty carry a maximum potential sentence of 25 years, with the length of the sentence yet to be decided by the trial judge. Harvey Weinstein will remain in custody at least until an appeal is filed.
That may, in any event, not be the end of the film producer’s legal woes. He has also been charged by authorities in Los Angeles with raping and sexually assaulting two women, over a two-day period, in February 2013.
There has been some speculation that those charges might now not be pursued. One of the two women in the LA case, Lauren Young, gave evidence in court in New York in relation to what are called “prior bad acts”. Young told the court that Weinstein had groped her in a hotel bathroom in Beverly Hills.
The guilty verdict has been hailed by women's rights organisations as a major blow against sexual predators, especially in the workplace. Tina Tchen, the President and CEO of the Time’s Up foundation – which campaigns against workplace sexual misconduct – issued a statement following the result.
“The jury’s verdict sends a powerful message to the world of just how much progress has been made since the Weinstein Silence Breakers ignited an unstoppable movement,” Tchen said. "In two short years, Time’s Up helped pass new laws to help survivors achieve justice, helped thousands of individuals take on harassers and abusers in court, and changed the game when it comes to how matters of safety and equity in the workplace are understood.
“While we celebrate this historic moment, our fight to fix the broken system that has allowed serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein to abuse women in the first place continues. Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: there’s no going back.”
A detailed statement was also issued by the MeToo movement.
“Today, a jury confirmed what we all know: Harvey Weinstein committed sexual assault,” it began. "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.
“For some, this has been a Hollywood battle between famous actresses and a larger-than-life producer. Some, have tired and begun to ask whether we should care about these Hollywood celebrities.
“We would do well to ask ourselves how many of these women’s names we can actually remember, beyond the boldface few? Certainly, Harvey’s name will be seared in our collective memories, but many of the survivors will be quietly taking stock of the impact.
"How many careers were derailed? How many entry-level assistants were fired or silenced? How many jobs were lost? How many news stories, that could have exposed Harvey sooner, were censored? How many people could have spoken up, but didn’t? All in the name of protecting a violent sexual predator.
"This case reminds us that sexual violence thrives on unchecked power and privilege. The implications reverberate far beyond Hollywood and into the daily lives of all of us in the rest of the world.
"Whether you are an office worker, a nanny, an assistant, a cook, a factory worker — we all have to deal with the spectre of sexual violence derailing our lives.
"And, though today a man has been found guilty, we have to wonder whether anyone will care about the rest of us tomorrow. This is why we say MeToo."
Following the announcement of the verdict, Cyrus Vance Jr, the district attorney who led the prosecution, held an impromptu press conference. According to reports on theguardian.com, he described Weinstein as “a vicious serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault, trick, humiliate and silence his victims.
“Weinstein with his manipulation, his resources, his attorneys, his publicists and his spies did everything he could to silence the survivors,” Vance added. “But they wouldn’t be silenced, spoke from their hearts, and (they) were heard.”
Vance also strongly criticised Weinstein’s defence team, led by the celebrity lawyer, Donna Rotunno, stating that the age-old tactics, all too frequently employed by defence counsel in rape trials, of attacking sexual assault accusers in the witness box are completely unacceptable.
“I hope,” he said, "that after this verdict it will become more obvious that those kinds of attacks on survivors and victims will no longer work in this day and age. It’s time that the defence stop using them.”
The Guardian also reported controversial comments made by Weinstein’s defence lawyer Donna Rotunno outside the court.
“The fight is not over”, she is quoted as saying. “It is absolutely horrible for me to watch my client be taken into custody. We don’t feel good about that at all.
“Harvey is very strong. Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man. He knows that we will continue to fight for him and knows that this is not over.”