NEW YORK – Harvey Weinstein will not take the stand to defend himself at his sex crimes trial, and 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. The jury was out of the courtroom.
“He’s pled not guilty, and he’s not going to testify,” defense lawyer Damon Cheronis said.
“Mr. Cheronis, does the defense have any more witnesses to call?” Burke asked.
“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 it against defendants if they decide not to take the stand.
Burke said the “evidence portion” of the trial is concluded. Court will not be in session Wednesday or Monday, which is Presidents Day. Burke said closing arguments will begin Thursday with the defense and continue Friday for the prosecution.
“Then Tuesday morning, I will give you the final instructions on the law, which should take about an hour, and then I will ask you to deliberate and reach a verdict on each count,” Burke told the jury. “And that will be that.”
The only defense witness Tuesday was Thomas Richards, 47, a former Hollywood agent for accuser Jessica Mann, who said 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 testified under subpoena.
He said he invited Mann to New York in 2013 to see a Broadway show; they stayed at the midtown DoubleTree hotel. 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 denied having a “falling out” with Mann. Then he was excused.
Monday, two defense witnesses, Mexican actress/model Claudia Salinas and Maia, a Brazilian actress, denied they witnessed, heard or enabled Weinstein to assault accusers Mann and Lauren Young.
“That never happened,” said Salinas, 38, about Young’s 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 whether the encounter described by Young happened, but if it did, “I most certainly wasn’t there, because I never saw that happen.”
Mann, 34, testified that Weinstein raped her in 2013 and earlier assaulted her in a bedroom in a hotel suite in Beverly Hills while Maia was outside the bedroom door.
Maia, 34, a friend and former roommate of Mann, said Mann never told her Weinstein raped or assaulted her or 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.
The trial is in its fourth week of witness testimony, having moved faster than anticipated. The prosecution, which rested its case last week, presented six accusers, whose graphic and emotional descriptions of Weinstein’s body and what they said 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 said 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 was intended to help bolster the prosecution’s argument about the “predatory” nature of Weinstein’s behavior, thus enhancing his sentence if he is convicted.
Monday, the defense called Nelson Lopez, the longtime resident manager of the Gramercy Park building where Sciorra lived, to testify that the security policy for the building would have made it impossible for Weinstein to get past the doormen to reach Sciorra’s apartment and that Sciorra never complained to him about such an encounter.
Three other women, Dawn Dunning, 40; Tarale Wulff, 43; and Young, 30, were “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 pleaded not guilty to all the charges and denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
He is 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.