A New York prosecutor described Harvey Weinstein on Friday as a “master of the universe” who abused and discarded “disposable” women for decades, perpetually haunted that one day one of them would “walk out from the shadows and call him exactly what he was — an abusive rapist.”
In a vivid, three-hour closing argument, New York Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi told jurors that day had arrived.
She called Weinstein a “predator” with a “sure-fire insurance policy — the witnesses were standing in line to get into his universe.”
“The universe is run by me, and they don’t get to complain when they get stepped on, spit on, demoralized and, yes, raped and abused by me — the king,” Illuzzi said, pacing directly in front of the jury box, a day after defense attorney Donna Rotunno had chosen to remain mostly behind a podium facing jurors.
Weinstein is charged with five felony counts for allegedly raping one woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi in 2006. He’s pleaded not guilty to all charges and claims any sexual encounters were consensual.
ABC News is not naming the rape accuser because she has not publicly identified herself like other witnesses.
Yesterday, Rotunno insisted in her closing arguments that the two primary accusers only “relabeled” consensual experiences as sexual assaults after the fall of 2017, when revelations about Weinstein broke in The New York Times and The New Yorker. The women are among more than 80 who have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
‘The hallmark of a predator’
On Friday, Illuzzi sought to point out patterns woven through some of the six accusers’ accounts, including the two complaining witnesses, who both maintained extensive contact with Weinstein, much of it on email, after their alleged assaults: “When you consider why they didn’t tell, why they had further contact with him, why they continued to speak nicely to him, remember that none of these women — when what was happening to them was happening — knew each other.”
“That’s the hallmark of a predator,” Illuzzi continued. “Isolate them, and they can feel like they’re the only one. And he’s a giant not only in his own industry, but he’s somebody that gets presidents on the phone.
“Then, you’re really hesitant to report and to not just leave.”
‘Tricked and surprised’
Illuzzi described nearly all the accusers as having been “tricked and surprised” into being alone with Weinstein.
“If you have to trick somebody into your control, it belies the fact that there was consent,” she said. “Then you know you don’t have consent.”
She focused particular attention on an incident in the summer of 2006 involving accuser Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi.
Weeks after the forcible sexual assault he’s charged with committing on her, the former “Project Runway” production assistant went again to Weinstein’s apartment, this time with his assistant.
She testified to feeling like she was “tricked” into being alone with him again, but didn’t physically resist sexual intercourse. She said she simply froze until it was over. Weinstein is not charged in that incident.
Rotunno, in her closing arguments on Thursday, cited dozens of emails from both women to Weinstein after the alleged assaults, many of them seeking some sort of favor from him — whether it was professional support or advice about their own projects, movie premiere tickets or simply personal advice.
Given the intense scrutiny the rape accuser faced during two days of cross-examination and her acknowledged consensual relationship with Weinstein before and after the alleged rape, Haleyi’s credibility could be vital to a successful prosecution.
Illuzzi sought to frame the second incident between Haleyi and Weinstein as a setup met with surrender, not a consensual sexual encounter.
“She’s going to his apartment to maintain a good relationship with him. She wasn’t going to Harvey Weinstein’s apartment to have sex with Harvey Weinstein. She was going there to be polite and professional. Is that consent to have sex? Is it a blurred line? There are no blurred lines here. This is a crime, and a wanton disregard of other people. That a woman unescorted can go to a man’s apartment and not suffer sexual assault.”
Yet “[as] soon as she’s in the room, like a puff of smoke, the assistant is gone. The defendant violates her except this time she doesn’t resist it. Mimi has this last event where she’s alone with the defendant she says to herself, ‘I’m so stupid. I got myself into this situation.’ She just waits for it to be done … She says after that, he took everything I had, here was nothing else to take and I no longer feared him.”
Illuzzi appealed to jurors to consider the witnesses.
“They didn’t come for a beauty contest. They didn’t come for money. They didn’t come for fame. They came to be heard.”
“They sacrificed their dignity, their privacy and their peace for the prospect of having that voice, and their voices would be enough for justice,” she said.
In another key moment in the packed courtroom, Illuzzi posted an email Weinstein sent to a publicist when word got back to him that Sciorra’s account was about to be published in Ronan Farrow’s story in The New Yorker.
Weinstein replied with two options.
“It was consensual or deny it.”
“I submit to you,” Illuzzi said, turning to the jury, “that was a confession.”
Deliberations begin Tuesday morning.