Verdict Reached In Harvey Weinstein Criminal Case
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A verdict today in the sex crimes trial of Harvey Weinstein. A New York City jury found the movie mogul guilty on two of five counts, a criminal sexual act against one woman and rape of another. They found him not guilty on the case's two most serious charges. NPR's Rose Friedman was in the courthouse today. She joins me now.
ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So I want to start by warning people listening this story does include a discussion of sexual violence. And I wonder if you would start, Rose, by just giving us a little bit more detail on exactly what happened today.
FRIEDMAN: The jury found Harvey Weinstein guilty on two counts, as you said. The two charges relate to two women - Miriam Haley, a former production assistant who testified that Harvey Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006, and Jessica Mann, who was an aspiring actress who said that Weinstein raped her in 2013. Weinstein's defense team insists that the process was flawed, and they say they'll appeal.
We have some tape of one of his lawyers, Arthur Aidala, outside the courthouse talking about Weinstein.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ARTHUR AIDALA: He was in shock. He handled it very stoically, but all he kept saying is, I'm innocent. But I'm innocent.
FRIEDMAN: Weinstein really didn't react after the verdict was read, but he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
KELLY: And so even if he does appeal, as you say his team plans to do, he is headed to prison.
FRIEDMAN: Yep. The criminal sexual act charge could carry a 25-year sentence, and the rape charge up to four years. And then don't forget; after that, he's still facing charges in LA. So this is not the end of the road for him.
KELLY: Talk about the reaction among those who sat in the courtroom, among the women listening, many of whom spent these last few weeks listening to all of the testimony.
FRIEDMAN: Yeah. They were surprising for a few reasons. The first is just, honestly, after 30 hours of jury deliberations, we really didn't know how the jury was going to come down. So those guilty verdicts were a surprise. And then the other surprise was that the jury didn't convict on these two most serious charges, which were for predatory sexual assault. So that was surprising for a pretty specific reason.
Predatory sexual assault means you've assaulted more than one person. And the second person in each of those charges was actress Annabella Sciorra, who was widely considered to be the state's strongest witness of the whole case. And that's mostly because unlike the other two women, she cut Weinstein out of her life after the alleged rape. She didn't continue to ask him for things - you know, for favors or invites to parties or career help - the way the other two women did. So by finding Weinstein not guilty of those two charges, the jury kind of indicated that they didn't believe the testimony of Sciorra but they did of the other two women. So that was a really big surprise to everyone who was there.
KELLY: And a lot of people have been watching this trial to try to figure out not only what would happen to Harvey Weinstein but what would happen to similar cases going forward - you know, where all this might leave juries who are hearing testimony from women who say they have been assaulted. I mean, what can - speak to that for a second.
FRIEDMAN: Yeah. You know, there wasn't a lot of physical evidence in this case, so a huge part of it just came down to believability and whether the state could convince a jury that a rape occurred in the context of an ongoing relationship. That was a pretty risky thing to bring to trial, and Weinstein's defense team did their best to get the jury to doubt it. You know, they brought up emails between Weinstein and the two women that they said proved that these were, you know, in their words, loving relationships - that, you know, if you're still writing to someone things like, miss you, big guy, and accepting party invitations and plane tickets, that that means he couldn't have raped you because, you know, you'd never talk to your rapist that way. So this is a pretty big repudiation of that whole defense.
We have some tape of the Manhattan district attorney laying it out pretty thoroughly after the verdict came down.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CYRUS VANCE: Rape is rape whether it's committed by a stranger in a dark alley or by an intimate partner in a working relationship. It's rape whether it's committed by an indigent person or a man of immense power, prestige and privilege. Rape is rape whether the survivor reports within an hour, within a year or, perhaps, never. It's rape despite the complicated dynamics of power and consent after an assault. It's rape even if there is no physical evidence and even if it happened a long time ago.
KELLY: Powerful words there from the Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance. That is Rose Friedman reporting there from New York.
Thanks so much.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.