NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein will not take the stand to defend himself at his sex-crimes trial as his legal team announced in court Tuesday that the defense rested its case.
After testimony by one defense witness followed by a long break in the witness room with his defense team, Weinstein returned to court to be asked by Judge James Burke what he planned to do next. The jury was out of the courtroom.
“He’s pled not guilty and he’s not going to testify,” responded defense lawyer Damon Cheronis.
“Mr. Cheronis, does the defense have any more witnesses to call?” asked Burke.
“No, your honor. The defense rests.”
In criminal trials, a defendant is not required to take the stand to defend himself. The prosecution has the sole burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and all 12 members of a jury must vote unanimously to convict or acquit. Judges typically instruct juries not to hold a decision not to take the stand against defendants.
The only defense witness Tuesday was Thomas Richards, 47, the former Hollywood agent for accuser Jessica Mann, who says Weinstein raped her in a New York hotel room in March 2013.
Under questioning from Weinstein lawyer Arthur Aidala, Richards said he and Mann were friendly, spoke on the phone at least once a week and saw each other once a month or so.
He said he wasn’t a friend of Weinstein’s and was testifying under subpoena.
He said he invited Mann to New York in 2013 to see a Broadway show; they stayed at the midtown DoubleTree hotel, where he met Mann in the lobby in the morning. Mann testified that she met Weinstein at the hotel and that he raped her after she accompanied him to a room.
Richards said he couldn’t remember anything standing out about Mann’s demeanor, her hair, her breathing or her eyes when he encountered both of them in the lobby.
“Was there any indication that Jessica was at all upset or distressed?,” Aidala asked. “No,” Richards responded. The “dynamic” between Mann and Weinstein was “friendly,” Richards said.
When she pulled Richards aside to speak privately, she exhibited no “distress” and seemed “normal,” he said. She told Richards she wanted to stay another night at the hotel at Weinstein’s invitation, he said.
On cross-examination from Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, Richards acknowledged he got a “little” tipsy at a bar the night before. He said he didn’t see Mann’s friend, Talita Maia, who testified Monday, at the hotel.
“Is it possible she was at breakfast and you just don’t remember?” Illuzzi asked.
“It’s possible,” Richards said. He also denied having a “falling out” with Mann. Then he was excused.
On Monday, two defense witnesses, Mexican actress/model Claudia Salinas and Maia, a Brazilian actress, denied they ever witnessed, heard or enabled Weinstein to assault accusers Mann and Lauren Young.
“That never happened,” said Salinas, 38, about Young’s earlier testimony that Salinas helped Weinstein “trap” her in a hotel bathroom in Beverly Hills in February 2013, where he allegedly groped her and masturbated.
Salinas, who met Young at a Hollywood party a year earlier, said she didn’t know if the encounter described by Young happened but if it did, “I most certainly wasn’t there, because I never saw that happen.”
Mann, 34, has testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013 and earlier assaulted her in a bedroom in a hotel suite in Beverly Hills with Maia outside the bedroom door.
But Maia, 34, a friend and former roommate of Mann, said Mann never told her Weinstein raped or assaulted her, never told her he forced her to do anything against her will. Instead, Maia said, Mann seemed to be fond of him, speaking highly of him as her “spiritual soulmate.”
Prosecutors pressed them on cross-examination but were unable to shake the two women’s insistence that the encounters with Weinstein described by his accusers either didn’t happen the way the accusers claimed or left the witnesses with dramatically different impressions of what had occurred.
Court is not in session Wednesday for a holiday. Closing arguments could begin immediately.
The trial is in its fourth week of witness testimony, having moved faster than initially anticipated. The prosecution, which rested its case last week, has presented six accusers, whose graphic and emotional descriptions of Weinstein’s body and what they say he did to them gripped the courtroom.
Two women’s allegations form the basis of the five charges: Mann and Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi, 42, who says Weinstein assaulted her in his New York apartment in 2006.
“Sopranos” star Annabella Sciorra, 59, testified that Weinstein pushed his way into her New York apartment and raped her in the winter of 1993-94. Weinstein is not charged in connection with her accusation because it’s too old to prosecute. Her testimony is intended to help bolster the prosecution’s argument about the “predatory” nature of Weinstein’s behavior, thus enhancing his sentence if convicted.
On Monday, the defense called Nelson Lopez, the longstanding resident manager of the Gramercy Park building where Sciorra lived, to testify that the security policy for the building would have make it impossible for Weinstein to get past the building doormen to reach Sciorra’s apartment, and that Sciorra never complained to him about such an encounter afterward.
Three other women, Dawn Dunning, 40, Tarale Wulff, 43, and Young, 30, were the so-called “Molineux witnesses,” whose accusations were either too old or out of jurisdiction to prosecute but were intended to help prosecutors prove that Weinstein was a serial predator with a recognizable pattern.
Expert witnesses took the witness stand for both sides: The prosecution called a psychiatrist to testify about “rape myths” and how it’s “normal” for sexual assault victims to maintain friendly or affectionate contact with their assailants for years after their assaults.
The defense called a research psychologist to testify about how memory fades over time – even as little as five years – and is susceptible to distortions and “false memories” that feel true even if they’re wrong.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
He has been charged with four similar sex crimes in Los Angeles County, including the alleged encounter with Young, but that case is on hold until the New York case is resolved.