Jury back for second day of deliberations in Weinstein trial
New York – Jurors at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial spent much of their second day of deliberations Wednesday revisiting a former film and TV production assistant’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her in July 2006.
Jurors sent a note shortly after resuming deliberations for the day saying they wanted to rehear Mimi Haleyi’s testimony about the accusation that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006 and about another sexual encounter with him about two weeks later.
They also said they wanted to see emails that Weinstein wrote about Haleyi and asked for a detailed explanation of the two charges involving her allegations – an indication that they haven’t reached a verdict on either of them.
Haleyi, now 42, testified that weeks after arriving in New York for a behind-the-scenes job on Weinstein’s “Project Runway” TV show, she found herself fighting in vain as he pushed her onto a bed and attacked her, undeterred by her kicks and pleas of, “no, no, no.”
She also testified that they had sex at a hotel two weeks later, even though she didn’t want to be intimate. Weinstein’s lawyers have suggested that episode is evidence he didn’t coerce her during the first encounter, either.
Court stenographers Randy Berkowitz and Susan Pearce-Bates took turns reading the lawyers’ questions and Haleyi’s testimony about the encounters. Court rules don’t allow jurors to have a copy of the trial transcript, Judge James Burke said.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts stemming from the allegations of Haleyi and two other women. Haleyi’s account is integral to the first two counts that jurors were instructed to consider on their maze-like verdict form, an indication they may still have a long way to go.
For the first count, predatory sexual assault, Haleyi’s allegation is intertwined with actress Annabella Sciorra’s claim that Weinstein raped her in the mid-1990s. To find him guilty on that count, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, jurors must agree that both assaults happened.
If jurors decide that Weinstein didn’t rape Sciorra, they can then consider the second count – a criminal sex act charge stemming solely from Haleyi’s allegation.
Weinstein is also charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013. Like Haleyi’s allegation, that one is also intertwined with Sciorra’s for purposes of a second predatory sexual assault count. Jurors also have the option to weigh standalone rape charges stemming from the 2013 incident, depending on how they decide on the predatory count.
The complex formula for reaching a verdict makes Sciorra’s allegation a key to any conviction on the most serious counts. While it is too old to be charged on its own because of the statute of limitations in effect at the time, the law allows prosecutors to use her allegations as a basis for the predatory assault charges.
In her closing argument last week, Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno implored jurors to see things the other way around. She suggested they focus first on Haleyi’s allegation and the 2013 rape allegation before thinking about Sciorra’s allegation.
“You have heard from many witnesses in this case… But in the end, it only comes down to those two,” Rotunno said. “You don’t have to evaluate anything else. You don’t get to Annabella Sciorra if you do not believe Miriam Haleyi, and if you do not believe (the 2013 accuser), you don’t get to Annabella Sciorra.”
Weinstein’s lawyers contend the acts were consensual. They focused on friendly, flirtatious emails some of the women sent to Weinstein and further meetings some of them had with him after the alleged assaults.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding the name of the rape accuser because it isn’t clear whether she wishes to be identified publicly.