Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney Donna Rotunno told jurors on Thursday that prosecutors in the rape case against her client were “stripping adult women of autonomy.”
“In their universe, women are not responsible for parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets, the jobs,” Rotunno said, according to Variety reporter Elizabeth Wagmeister, as she urged the jury to exonerate Weinstein, whom she called a victim of “overzealous prosecution.”
The disgraced former producer’s trial for five sexual abuse charges started in early January in New York. He faces a maximum penalty of life behind bars if convicted.
His defense team has relied on a strategy of portraying his accusers as attention seekers.
“During deliberation, I’m going to ask you to use your New York City common sense,” Rotunno told jurors. “Every time you feel your emotion taking over, remember that common sense, because it will guide you.”
Rotunno, an open critic of the Me Too movement that kicked off after multiple women accused her client of sexual misconduct, has elicited strong criticism for victim-blaming sexual assault survivors. Last week, she told a New York Times reporter that she had never been attacked “because I would never put myself in that position.”
Prosecutors used a collection of witnesses to illustrate Weinstein’s pattern of sexual abuse. Their case, however, centers on allegations that he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013, and that he forcibly performed oral sex on another woman at his Manhattan home in 2006.
“You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein. This is not a popularity contest,” Rotunno told the courtroom Thursday.
She added of the prosecution: “If you look at the evidence alone, they lose.”
Prosecutors will make their closing arguments on Friday, and the jury is expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday.