Just before 1 PM today, Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi had the last word on locking up accused rapist and sexual predator, Harvey Weinstein. Her three hour summation was an effort to focus the jury on the important facts. She painted a picture of Weinstein as a sexual predator, not a victim of the #MeToo movement, as Donna Rotunno, his lead attorney, had claimed.
Rotunno’s summation, which took place Thursday, accused the prosecutor of creating a fictional universe in which women were stripped of “common sense, autonomy and responsibility.” She totally ignored the impacts of coercion and force.
Ironically, as my “court buddy” Adjunct Law Professor Jim Petzke of John Jay College of Criminal Justice pointed out, her summation plagiarized Atticus Finch’s closing from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” while she reamed Illuzzi for creating “theater.”
As Rotunno marched down the corridor toward the courtroom this morning, the press strained to get her comments.
“How do you think it went?” one shouted.
It went great,” she responded.
“Yeah, great if you’re Atticus Finch,” I quipped.
In the press conference that followed today’s hearing, Rotunno took another run at casting Weinstein’s sexual conduct as “consensual.” She based her entire argument on what happened after, not during, his sexual contact.
Previously, Illuzzi had produced compelling testimony from highly regarded forensic psychologist Dr. Barbara Zif. She pointed out common rape myths about how people behave when they’ve been raped. She included that it was common for victims to continue relationships with the accused. Let’s hope the jury was listening!
The jury will receive their marching orders from Judge James Burke on Tuesday morning after the long, holiday weekend. For sure, the jury will ask what consent means. His response could make or break this case.
Illuzzi mentioned Weinstein’s use of “trickery” in her closing. She claimed the victims were tricked by “luring.” Luring is neither a fraud in the factum nor a fraud in the inducement. It’s not a “fraud in fact” that would make sexual contact a crime. Luring his victims got him, or them, through the door. Coercing vitiated their consent.
Coercion is a crime. And Weinstein continuously used coercion to induce sexual contact. Coercion is the threat of harm. In fact, threatening someone regarding their career is considered a crime in New York, even without sexual contact. It’s a class A misdemeanor.
Coercing someone for sex is a Class E Felony punishable by 2-5 years of incarceration. Yet the prosecutor did not identify coercion as the weapon that Weinstein used to demand sex. Nor did she prosecute for the crime of 2nd degree coercion.