Weinstein attorney slams prosecutors for 'writing a script' in closing arguments

Lead attorney Donna Rotunno said prosecutors fed them 'a sinister tale' to detract from their lack of evidence

Harvey Weinstein’s lead attorney Donna Rotunno pleaded with members of the jury Thursday to use their “New York common sense” and stand their ground in making what she called “possibly an unpopular decision,” according to multiple reports.

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“In this country, it is the unpopular people who need juries the most,” Rotunno told the panel, according to Page Six.

Harvey Weinstein, center, spotted leaving Manhattan's Criminal Court. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The 12-person jury “may have had a gut feeling that Harvey Weinstein is guilty” when they were first enlisted as jurors, Rotunno said, but once they “apply the legal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, you can’t find Mr. Weinstein guilty.”

Rotunno asked jurors to ignore “outside forces” and use their “New York City common sense” in weighing a case seen as a watershed for the #MeToo movement.

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She must convince the seven-man, five-woman jury the 67-year-old filmmaker is innocent without shaming or blaming any victims, which she previously pledged not to do.

Attorney Donna Rotunno makes her closing arguments to the jury in front of New York Criminal Court for Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault trial. (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

“You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein,” she told the jury. “This is not a popularity contest."

The embattled movie mogul has been standing trial in New York in connection to allegations he raped Jessica Mann in 2013 and sexually assaulted Mimi Haleyi in 2006.

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He has maintained all sex with the women was consensual.

Jessica Mann (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images); Mimi Haleyi (Associated Press) 

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At least 100 women have reportedly come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, and Weinstein is facing similar charges in Los Angeles. He will not appear before a judge regarding the LA case until his New York trial wraps.

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Actor Rose McGowan, right, speaks at a news conference as actor Rosanna Arquette, center left, listens outside a Manhattan courthouse Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“The DA has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Rotunno said about the charges Weinstein faces in New York, according to Page Six. “On behalf of Mr. Weinstein, we are imploring you to have the courage to tell them that by saying ‘not guilty’ on all counts.”

Rotunno slammed prosecutors for feeding the panel “a sinister tale” to detract from their lack of evidence to prove Weinstein’s charges.

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“The irony is that they are the producers and they are writing the script,” Rotunno said.

“Their story created a universe where adult women have no autonomy and responsibility,” she said, according to the Daily Mail. “Women are not responsible for parties they attend, for choices they make to further their own career... for sitting at their computers for sending emails to someone across the country.”

Assistant District Attorneys Joan Illuzzi, left, and Meghan Hast arrive for the Harvey Weinstein rape trial, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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In the government’s portrayal of the events, “The powerful man is the villain and is so unattractive that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily.”

Rotunno told FOX Business at the start of the trial she believes the #MeToo movement is dangerous because of the “celebrity victimhood status” that is often attached to accusations.

“I have to look at #MeToo through the lens of a criminal defense attorney because that's the way #MeToo is affecting my client in this situation," she said in an interview with FOX Business. “I believe everyone has a right to the presumption of innocence and everyone has a right to a fair trial and due process. And that's what we lose in social movements – people get stripped of their rights, whether it's inadvertent or not ... That's just not the way our system of justice is.”

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Earlier in the trial, jurors heard testimony from six women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, including Mann and Haleyi. The defense then called the women’s former roommates and acquaintances, as well as Weinstein’s own colleagues.

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for his rape trial in New York, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The jury also heard about emails in which the victim of the alleged rape wrote to Weinstein afterward to accept party invitations from him, give him new phone numbers and even express gratitude. One message read: “I feel so fabulous and beautiful, thank you for everything."

Weinstein ultimately chose not to testify in the trial.

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The jury is scheduled to hear the prosecution closings Friday before getting instructions on the law from Judge James Burke next week and starting deliberations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.