US

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York prosecutors told jurors that Harvey Weinstein abused his power and lacked empathy in a closing argument on Friday at the former movie producer’s weeks-long rape trial, a milestone of the #MeToo movement.

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court during his ongoing sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Setting the stage for the jury to begin deliberating next week, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said Weinstein, 67, had counted on his victims never coming forward.

“The defendant not only ran roughshod over the dignity and the very lives of these witnesses, but he also underestimated them,” she said.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013.

Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Through the #MeToo movement, women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

The former producer, who was behind films including “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has denied any nonconsensual sex.

On Thursday, Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, assailed Weinstein’s accusers as unreliable and said an “overzealous” prosecution was trying to portray consensual sex as assault.

“They are creating a universe in which they are stripping adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility,” she said during a nearly five-hour closing argument.

Haleyi testified during the trial that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in his home in 2006. Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room early in what she called an “extremely degrading” relationship with him.

Jurors heard from four other women, including actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein came into her apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994 and raped her. The accusation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but it could act as an aggravating factor to support the most serious charge in the case, predatory sexual assault, which carries a possible life sentence.

The prosecutors called the remaining three women to bolster their evidence of Weinstein’s intent, but did not charge him with any crimes related to them.

Justice James Burke was expected to give the jury legal instructions on Tuesday morning, after which they will begin deliberating.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Rosalba O’Brien and Howard Goller

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