Lawyer says 'loving emails' are key to Harvey Weinstein defence

Lawrence Kim
January 22, 2020

U.S. prosecutors will begin presenting their rape case against Harvey Weinstein, with the once-powerful Hollywood producer facing life in prison if convicted, in a trial that has become a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement.

Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein's lawyers, said his PowerPoint presentation would include excerpts of "dozens and dozens and dozens of emails" between Weinstein and the specific two women who have accused him of sexually assaulting them.

Assistant DA Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said that the defense's characterization of Weinstein's relationships with his alleged victims was "blatantly inaccurate".

In legal terms, rape can - and often does - occur within consensual relationships, such as an abusive marriage.

But since his indictment in May 2018, Weinstein's changing lineup of defense lawyers (he's now represented by a third team), has been signaling and declaring in court documents that they will question the credibility of the accusers' allegations based on scores of email exchanges between him and them, which his lawyers argue are too friendly to reflect a relationship of assailant and victim.

Meanwhile, Weinstein's attorneys foreshadowed their strategy to defend him against charges that he raped a woman in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performed a sex act on another woman at his apartment in 2006. A single hold-out would produce a hung jury, although that would not prevent prosecutors from trying Weinstein again. But his lawyers have argued that it was Weinstein who was used by the women who have now accused him.

Revelations about Weinstein's treatment of women in The New York Times and The New Yorker set in motion the global #MeToo movement, a public reckoning about the harassment endured by women for centuries. The prosecution's case largely hinges on the jury believing the women's accounts; there is no physical evidence to support the allegations.

Once alone, Weinstein would allegedly either expose himself to the women, request massages or, according to some accusers, physically force himself on them.

But numerous alleged crimes fall outside the timeframe for bringing charges.

In court Tuesday morning, Judge James Burke asked prosecutors and defense lawyers to give a preview of their opening statements, and subsequently ruled in favor of the defense plans with regard to theirs.

In addition, Cheronis said, one prosecution witness sent a "loving" email to Weinstein after the encounters, while a second sent him an email asking to introduce him to her mother. The other, who has not been identified, was raped by Weinstein in 2013, alleges the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which brought the case.

The next day she wrote, "I appreciate all you do for me, it shows".

In a three-paragraph ruling Tuesday, a panel of state appeals judges declined to move the trial or delay it for further deliberation.

The decision by the Appellate Division, First Department, which is in Manhattan, ended Weinstein's eleventh-hour effort to delay his trial and move it, perhaps to Albany or Suffolk County.

The same court turned down a similar request three months ago from Weinstein's lawyers, who say it's impossible for him to get a fair trial in media-saturated New York City.

Manhattan prosecutors said the defense claims did not add up.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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