NEW YORK — Before the jurors in Harvey Weinstein’s sex-crimes trial begin deliberating next week, the prosecution delivered its closing argument Friday by scorning him as “Richy Rich” and an “abusive rapist” and demanding the seven men and five women of the jury return with a guilty verdict.
“What is this case about? Power, manipulation and abuse? Or is it about the wanton lack of human empathy, which most of us possess but is absent in others?” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi started off.
She said Weinstein sees himself as “the master of his universe, and the witnesses here were really ants who he could step on without consequences.”
She launched into a recap of the testimony of the six Weinstein accusers, telling the jury: “We asked you to really listen to these witnesses.”
As she spoke, the text on the Powerpoint screen read: “NO MOTIVE TO LIE.”
She started with the first accuser to testify, “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who says Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in the winter of 1993-94. Illuzzi said Sciorra was briefly addicted to Valium given to her by Weinstein, but she was sober on the night she says Weinstein “busted” through her door.
Illuzzi said evidence showed Weinstein’s company had her address and that he likely had a car phone or a cell phone. “And you know what? In 1993, 1994, there were cell phones. There were car phones. And you can bet Richy Rich had one,” she said, pointing to Weinstein as laughter rippled in the courtroom.
She described Sciorra’s reaction to the alleged assault in dramatic terms.
“All her fight is gone. Her body is beginning to shake. When you live to a certain age, and hopefully you never have to experience this, but in moments of trauma, your body begins to shake,” Illuzzi said.
“She passed out; she was in shock, she was in horror, and she was alone. Her life was really, really good. Her career was great. She thought, ‘I can move on. I can stuff this down and try to continue living my life. Maybe no one will notice.’ “
Illuzzi reminded jurors that the prosecution’s expert witness, psychiatrist Barbara Ziv, testified that many sexual assault victims remain in contact with their assailants in an attempt to put the experience behind them and move on.
Weinstein is not being tried with raping Sciorra as her allegation is too old to prosecute; her testimony is intended to help prosecutors bolster the key accusers’ testimony to prove Weinstein is a serial predator, thus enhancing a prison sentence if convicted.
“This experience (of sexual assault) was shared by women decades apart,” Illuzzi said, pointing to the testimony of key accuser Jessica Mann, who says Weinstein raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013. She said both Sciorra and Mann described how Weinstein’s “eyes went black” when he was angry at them.
On Thursday, the defense team argued in closing statements that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proving Weinstein committed five sex crimes.
Defense attorney Donna Rotunno reminded jurors that they promised when they were selected to make the “right” decision even if it isn’t the most popular, alluding to the public demonstrations and statements issued by accusers and activists against Weinstein outside the courthouse before and during the trial.
She asked them to let common sense guide them during deliberations. “I’m going to ask that you use your New York City common sense,” she said. “Every time you feel emotion taking over, let common sense guide you.”
She said prosecutors created an “alternative universe” in which Weinstein was depicted as an overweight “monster.” At one point, pictures of Weinstein naked were shown to the jury, but not the press and public.
Closing summations in the closely watched case – the first and so far only case put before a criminal jury in the #MeToo era – came after about three days of testimony by witnesses called by Weinstein’s defense, and about 11 days of testimony by witnesses called by prosecutors.
Weinstein was charged with five sex crimes involved two women: Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi, 42, who says Weinstein forced oral sex on her at his downtown apartment in 2006, and Mann, 34, who says he raped her in a midtown hotel room in 2013.
Four others – Sciorra, 59, Dawn Dunning, 40, Tarale Wulff, 43, and Lauren Young, 30 – also testified as accusers, but Weinstein is not charged with their allegations because they’re either too old to prosecute or occurred outside New York.
Weinstein pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.
Judge James Burke has scheduled jury instructions for Tuesday, which will take about an hour, after which the jury will begin deliberations.