Pivotal moment in #MeToo movement: Harvey Weinstein's verdict could influence other sex crime prosecutions

Most of the women who testified against Weinstein stayed in contact with him.

AP
Dozens of women who crossed paths with Weinstein through the entertainment industry have said he bullied, pressured, coerced or overpowered them while demanding sexual favours.
NEW YORK: New York prosecutors are hailing Harvey Weinstein's conviction as a pivotal moment that could change the way the legal system views a type of sexual assault case historically considered difficult to prove. Most of the women who testified against Weinstein stayed in contact with him - and sometimes had consensual sexual encounters with him - after alleged attacks. None promptly reported his crimes. There was little physical evidence to bolster their stories.

The jury convicted anyway, finding the producer guilty of raping one woman in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006.

"This is a new day," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said after the verdict was announced. "Rape is rape whether the survivor reports within an hour, within a year or perhaps never. It's rape despite the complicated dynamics of power and consent after an assault. It's rape even if there is no physical evidence."


But some women's advocates cautioned that it's too soon to know how much the legal landscape has shifted.

"This is not a signal that our systems and institutions are magically transformed," said Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women's New York chapter, who sat through most of the trial.

"This is one case, one man. We've got to keep it in perspective." If any case seemed to encapsulate the #MeToo reckoning with sexual misconduct, gender dynamics and power as a form of coercion, it was Weinstein's.
ADVERTISEMENT

Dozens of women who crossed paths with Weinstein through the entertainment industry have said he bullied, pressured, coerced or overpowered them while demanding sexual favours. The alleged encounters took place over many decades, amid movie screenings in Los Angeles, film festivals in Cannes, and business meetings in New York or London.

Film producer Harvey Weinstein is handcuffed after his guilty verdict in his sexual assault trial at the New York Criminal Court in New York City in this courtroom sketch.
Film producer Harvey Weinstein is handcuffed after his guilty verdict in his sexual assault trial at the New York Criminal Court in New York City in this courtroom sketch.

The New York case involved only six accusers: three directly linked to the charges and three whose testimony was meant to bolster the prosecution case.

Weinstein's defence team argued that the encounters were consensual, if perhaps "transactional": He wanted sex, they wanted access to his power over the film world.

ADVERTISEMENT
While the law recognises that people can be assaulted by intimate partners in ongoing relationships, those cases have rarely been prosecuted in the past, because they're difficult to prove, several trial lawyers said.

The tide is starting to change, however, as prosecutors take more risks and juries become more aware of the complexities of human behaviour.

ADVERTISEMENT
"This case challenges our notions of what is force in a sexual relationship, what is lack of consent in a sexual relationship," said Paul DerOhannesian, an Albany, New York, defence lawyer, former sex crimes prosecutor and author of a guide to sexual assault trials.

He followed the trial coverage and found it telling that one of the first questions from the jury involved the legal definition of "consent" and "forcible compulsion." Vance initially declined to prosecute Weinstein when a model claimed he'd groped her in 2015.

Facing criticism of the 2015 decision after waves of additional women came forward two years later, Vance ultimately took some of their allegations to trial.

One of the first witnesses at trial was an expert on victim behaviour, who testified that it isn't unusual for sexual assault victims to continue communicating with their attackers. A decade ago, that type of expert testimony was rarely allowed.

From Harvey Weinstein To Bill Cosby's Trials & Convictions: #TimesUp Sends Clear Message
1/13
It all started with Harvey Weinstein in 2017 and four months in to 2018 and now with Bill Cosby's conviction, things are certainly looking up for the #MeToo movement. The number of cases of sexual harassment in Hollywood that have come to light since 2017 has been outstanding. It could also be called the 'Weinstein Effect'. Many of the women who spoke out against Weinstein -- Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan -- are famous names.

2018 has been no different and in a breakthrough trial, after decades of whispers, lawsuits, investigations and close calls - and a multitude of women who lost hope anyone would ever believe their word against that of America's Dad - Bill Cosby could be headed to prison at age 80 for the remainder of his life. Cosby's conviction will only bolster the #MeToo movement.

But they weren't alone, it was almost like a Pandora's Box was opened and a lot of names came out. Let's look at all the accused men:
It all started with Harvey Weinstein in 2017 and four months in to 2018 and now with Bill Cosby's conviction, things are certainly looking up for the #MeToo movement. The number of cases of sexual ha..
Read More
October 5, 2017
With three women accusing him of rape and multiple high-profile Hollywood actresses accusing him of sexual assault, Weinsntein has been fired and expelled from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Emmys and BAFTA. He has also been ousted from his own company.
October 5, 2017 With three women accusing him of rape and multiple high-profile Hollywood actresses accusing him of sexual assault, Weinsntein has been fired and expelled from the Academy of Motion ..
Read More
October 10, 2017
Actress Hilarie Burton accused him of groping her in 2003. Affleck apologised to Burton on Twitter, "I acted inappropriately towards Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize." Affleck has pledged to donate future profits made from Harvey Weinstein or Miramax projects to independent filmmakers and victims of sexual assault.
October 10, 2017 Actress Hilarie Burton accused him of groping her in 2003. Affleck apologised to Burton on Twitter, "I acted inappropriately towards Ms. Burton and I sincerely apologize." Affleck h..
Read More
October 12, 2017
Isa Hackett, an executive producer on an Amazon series 'The Man in the High Castle', accused Price of sexual harassment. There has been no official statement from Price. Following the incident, he resigned from Amazon. Not just that, Price was set to marry TV writer and playwright Lila Feinberg in New York. Feinberg called off the wedding because of the accusation.
October 12, 2017 Isa Hackett, an executive producer on an Amazon series 'The Man in the High Castle', accused Price of sexual harassment. There has been no official statement from Price. Following t..
Read More
October 22, 2017
More than hundreds of women have accused Toback of sexual harassment. However, in a statement, he denied the allegations and said that he had never met the women or, if he did, it "was for five minutes and has no recollection." Toback's agent and former ICM chief Jeff Berg, terminated his relationship with him.
October 22, 2017 More than hundreds of women have accused Toback of sexual harassment. However, in a statement, he denied the allegations and said that he had never met the women or, if he did, it ..
Read More
October 29, 2017
'House of Cards' won't be the same without him! Actor Anthony Rapp first spoke about being sexually assaulted by Spacey in 1986. In response, Spacey apologised for "what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior". He's also decided to "choose now to live as a gay man." Spacey was fired from hit Netflix series 'House of Cards' and replaced in Ridley Scott's completed film. He is currently seeking unspecified treatment.
October 29, 2017 'House of Cards' won't be the same without him! Actor Anthony Rapp first spoke about being sexually assaulted by Spacey in 1986. In response, Spacey apologised for "what would have ..
Read More
October 30, 2017
At least five women have shared stories of Piven's misconduct. Actress, Ariane Bellamar said Piven groped her on the sets of 'Entourage'. Piven has adamantly denied all the claims, going so far as to take a polygraph test. Amidst the drama, CBS planned to end 'Wisdom of the Crowd' after just one season, as more women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
October 30, 2017 At least five women have shared stories of Piven's misconduct. Actress, Ariane Bellamar said Piven groped her on the sets of 'Entourage'. Piven has adamantly denied all the claims, ..
Read More
November 1, 2017
Accused by two writers, Anna Graham Hunter and Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, Hoffman responded to Hunter's allegation, "I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation," in a statement. "I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am."
November 1, 2017 Accused by two writers, Anna Graham Hunter and Wendy Riss Gatsiounis, Hoffman responded to Hunter's allegation, "I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything ..
Read More
November 1, 2017
With accusations from at least six women, including actresses Natasha Henstridge and Olivia Munn, Rattner has denied the allegations and is suing his rape accuser for libel. Playboy shelved projects with Ratner and actress Gal Gadot confirmed that he won't be involved in the 'Wonder Woman' sequel, calling the decision "the right thing to do".
November 1, 2017 With accusations from at least six women, including actresses Natasha Henstridge and Olivia Munn, Rattner has denied the allegations and is suing his rape accuser for libel. Playboy ..
Read More
November 7, 2017
The suave actor from 'Gossip Girl' was accused by two women of sexual assault, including actress Kristina Cohen and former actress Aurelie Wynn. He denied the allegations and said he is cooperating with the authorities to have his name cleared as soon as possible.
November 7, 2017 The suave actor from 'Gossip Girl' was accused by two women of sexual assault, including actress Kristina Cohen and former actress Aurelie Wynn. He denied the allegations and said he..
Read More

The jury ultimately acquitted Weinstein of two of the most serious counts: one of first-degree rape, and a second charge that he was a sexual predator, linked to the testimony of actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein barged into her apartment and raped her in the early 1990s.

But Weinstein, 67, still faces the possibility of up to 29 years in prison. He's also facing separate charges in Los Angeles involving two more alleged sexual assault victims.

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

Criminal defence attorney Richard Kaplan said the New York case could both empower women to come forward and embolden prosecutors to take on tough cases.

"Now there is a road-map on how you can win this kind of case," he said, predicting more people would come forward.

"There's always the fear of coming forward, you know, going through a trial, getting beat up and humiliated and then not getting that verdict. Now that they see it can be done, I think more people will come forward and definitely empower the movement."

Lawyer Carrie Goldberg represents Weinstein accuser Lucia Evans, whose complaint against him was initially part of the indictment, but Vance's office ultimately dropped her allegations from the case. While Goldberg faults Vance for not sticking with her client, she said the conviction is a "watershed moment" - and a long time coming.

"I hope that prosecutors, all over this country, and all over the world, look at this case and realise that rape trials can be won," Goldberg said, "and that these aren't just 'he said, she said' stories, but they're actually crimes that are winnable and need to be brought."

Download
The Economic Times Business News App
for the Latest News in Business, Sensex, Stock Market Updates & More.
READ MORE
ADVERTISEMENT

READ MORE:

LOGIN & CLAIM

50 TIMESPOINTS

More from our Partners

Loading next story
Text Size:AAA
Success
This article has been saved

*

+