Harvey Weinstein was a serial rapist who used his status as a Hollywood power broker to prey on women, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi told jurors on Friday.
Illuzzi began her closing argument by emphasizing the vast power imbalance between Weinstein and the six women who have accused him of rape and sexual assault.
“Is it that the defendant was the master of his universe and the witnesses here were merely ants that he could step on?” she asked. “They don’t get to complain when they’re stepped on, spit on, demoralized and then, yes, raped and abused by the defendant.”
The prosecutor then mounted an attack on a central component of Weinstein’s defense — that his victims had maintained contact with their alleged rapist after their attacks. This was, Illuzzi argued, part of a larger strategy to discredit his victims.
“He also underestimated them,” Illuzzi said. “He made sure he had contact… to make sure that one day they wouldn’t call him for exactly what he was: an abusive rapist. Well, he was wrong.”
A very animated Illuzzi theatrically spoke to the jury about the predatory and abusive patterns Weinstein displayed throughout numerous women’s allegations across several decades.
Weinstein faces five counts of rape, predatory sexual assault and criminal sexual acts. He is accused of raping Jessica Mann, an aspiring actress who now works as a hairdresser, at the DoubleTree Hotel in 2013. He is also accused of forcibly performing oral sex on Miriam Haley, a former “Project Runway” production assistant, at his Soho apartment in 2006. Prosecutors called four additional witnesses to buttress those claims, including actress Annabella Sciorra, who accused Weinstein of raping her at her apartment in late 1993 or early 1994.
Illuzzi spoke about Sciorra’s rape allegations for a full hour, countering the defense argument that Sciorra had made the allegation to boost her flagging career. She argued that Sciorra was forced to reveal painful secrets about her addiction and self-harm.
“To have to tell you that she was cutting herself and then dabbing her blood with a tissue and putting it on the wall with gold leaf… do you think that’s a career booster?” Illuzzi asked. “Do you honestly think that people with projects and movies are going to want that image connected to whatever film they put Annabella in?”
Referencing reporting from journalist Ronan Farrow, Illuzzi said that Weinstein hired Black Cube, a private intelligence firm, to dig up dirt on Sciorra and not other victims because he was worried that her celebrity status would discredit him.
“It’s really quite simple. These ladies are all the complete disposables,” she said, referring to the other accusers. “Annabella is in his industry. Annabella is having dinner and talking to Uma Thurman and she dated Gary Oldman… These other women, they were never in his world, they were never going to be in his word, they’re never going to be strong enough, bold enough or brave enough to tell. But Annabella? Hmm. Someone might believe her.”
On Thursday, Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s attorney, painted a starkly different portrait of the former mogul. She claimed that Weinstein’s accusers were trying to evade responsibility for their actions and were being dishonest about their relationship with the producer. Rotunno argued that both Mann and Haley had used Weinstein to advance their careers, pointing to affectionate emails they sent the producer after the alleged assaults.
“What are we doing to women?” she asked. “Women have choices.”