'Power. Manipulation. Abuse.' Prosecutors get final word at Weinstein’s rape trial

Kimberly Dole
February 14, 2020 - 11:16 am
Harvey Weinstein

Juliet Papa/ 1010 WINS


NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — As Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon began her closing arguments in the trial of Harey Weinstein, the jury saw these three words on the monitor next to the jury box: "Power. Manipulation. Abuse."

"Is it really about abuse of power, or wanton lack of human empathy, taking others for granted?" Illuzzi asked the jury. "He (Weinstein), was the master of his universe, the witnesses, merely ants he could step on, the witnesses merely standing in line to get into his universe, they wanted to be in that universe, but they don't get to play, they get stepped on, spit on, demoralized, raped and abused."

"With his sordid and toxic defense he's riding roughshod over human dignity. But he also underestimated them," she adds. "He made sure he had contact with those he was worried about to make sure they didn't walk out of the shadows and call him exactly what he is, an abusive rapist."

By the time prosecutors at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial gave their closing argument on Friday, it had been more than a week since jurors heard one of his accusers recount what prosecutors describe as a vile sexual encounter with the disgraced Hollywood mogul.

Illuzzi recalls  the testimony of Annabella Sciorra and when she said "he came busting through the door" of her apartment. Then, Illuzzi says, "he's backing her up into the bedroom. You'll hear the same thing from Lauren, Tarale, Jessica, Mimi."  

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi also asks the jury—"Why is Annabella Sciorra a major concern for the defendant?"—as she shows photos of all the women who testified  on large screen next to jury box . 

"See, these ladies (all except Sciorra) - complete displosables, but Annabella is in the industry, she's having dinner and talking to Uma Thurman and Gary Oldman.  She was in his world, they were never in his world, or bold enough or brave enough to tell.  But Annabella, someone might believe her.  "    ​

In the days since, Weinstein’s lawyers have called witnesses who raised doubts about the accusers’ testimony, brought in an expert who spoke about memories getting fuzzy over time and offered an epic, hours-long closing argument painting the prosecution's case as a “sinister tale” and the allegations as “regret renamed as rape.”

Now prosecutors look to focus the jury's attention back on the accusers who testified and their harrowing accounts alleging rapes, forced oral sex, groping, masturbation, lewd propositions and casting couch experiences.

Several women testified that Weinstein ignored pleas of “no, no, no” as he assaulted them. The woman Weinstein is charged with raping said he would turn violent when he couldn't get his way and that, “If he heard the word 'no,' it was like a trigger for him."

Another woman recalled Weinstein sneering, "You’ll never make it in this business, this is how this industry works,” when she laughed off his advances.

Having the last word before jurors hear instructions and start deliberating Tuesday, prosecutors must also answer some of the defense's knocks on their case.

Chief among them: that the two women Weinstein is charged with attacking were opportunists who willingly latched on to the once-powerful producer and acquiesced to sex with him because they thought it would help their careers.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman, Mimi Haleyi, in 2006. Other accusers testified as part of a prosecution effort to show he used the same tactics to victimize many women over the years.

The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding name of the rape accuser because it isn’t clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.

The prosecution’s task has been complicated because the women he’s charged with assaulting didn’t abandon Weinstein after the alleged encounters.

A psychologist who testified for the prosecution said most sexual assault victims continue to have contact with their attacker. Nevertheless, the defense seized on the continued contact and confronted some accusers with warm emails and other communications with Weinstein that continued for months — or even years — after the alleged attacks.

In her closing argument Thursday, Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno accused prosecutors of creating an alternate universe that “strips adult women of common sense, autonomy, and responsibility.”

"In their universe, they are not even responsible for sitting at their computers sending emails to someone across the country," Rotunno said in remarks that went on for more than 4½ hours. “In this script the powerful man is the villain and he's so unattractive and large, that no woman would ever want to sleep with him voluntarily. Regret does not exist in this world, only regret renamed as rape.”

In 2017, Illuzzi-Orbonshe won a conviction in the notorious decadesold case of Etan Patz, a child pictured on milk cartons after he disappeared in 1979. She also led the office's 2011 sex assault case against former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which was ultimately dropped.

Illuzzi reminded jurors in closing argument that Weinstein didn't always look as feeble as he has during the trial.

On Tuesday, after the defense rested and the jury left for the day, Weinstein’s lawyers sparred with Illuzzi over her plan to mention how his physical appearance has changed significantly since the time of the alleged assaults.

Weinstein has hobbled into court each day with a walker, parking the device behind the defense table. His lawyers say it's needed because of recent back surgery, but Illuzzi said it seemed more like a prop put there to sway jurors' sympathies.

"I'm not going to argue Mr. Weinstein does not have physical ailments right now," Illuzzi told Judge James Burke. "But I can argue that is not the man these witnesses saw."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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