Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape in landmark #MeToo moment

Updated February 24, 2020

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Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Court on Feb 24. — AFP
Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Court on Feb 24. — AFP

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was convicted on Monday of sexual assault and rape but cleared of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges.

The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree, a partial victory for the #MeToo movement that considered the case a watershed moment.

The 67-year-old was found not guilty, however, of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault charges that could have seen him jailed for life.

The verdict followed weeks of often harrowing and excruciatingly graphic testimony from a string of accusers who told of rapes, forced oral sex, groping, masturbation, lewd propositions and excuses from Weinstein about how the casting couch works.

The conviction was seen as a long overdue reckoning for Weinstein after years of whispers about his behavior turned into a torrent of accusations in 2017 that destroyed his career and gave rise to #MeToo, the global movement to encourage women to come forward and hold powerful men accountable for their sexual misconduct.

The case against the once-feared producer was essentially built on three allegations: that he raped an aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013, that he forcibly performed oral sex on another woman, production assistant Mimi Haleyi, at his apartment in 2006, and that he raped and forcibly performed oral sex on “Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra in her apartment in the mid-1990s.

Three additional women who said they, too, were attacked by Weinstein also testified as part of an effort by prosecutors to show a pattern of brutish behavior on his part.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes unless they grant permission, as Haleyi and Sciorra did.

Jurors signaled their struggles with the Sciorra charges four days into deliberations. On Friday, after reviewing sections of her testimony and related evidence, they sent a note to the judge indicating they were deadlocked on the counts but had reached a unanimous verdict on the others. After some debate in the courtroom, the judge ordered jurors to keep deliberating.

While Weinstein did not testify, his lawyers contended that any sexual contact was consensual and that his accusers went to bed with him to advance their careers.

The defense seized on the fact that two of the women central to the case stayed in contact with Weinstein through warm and even flirty emails and had sex with him well after he supposedly attacked them.