Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein arrived at Manhattan federal court Tuesday with his fate now in the hands of a jury – seven men and five women - who began the first day of deliberations in his sexual assault trial.
Sparks flew right from the start – with the judge warning Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno against talking to the press until jurors have reached a verdict.
His admonishment came two days after Rotunno wrote an opinion piece in Newsweek magazine titled, “Jurors in my client Harvey Weinstein’s case must look past the headlines.”
Rotunno replied that her piece was not intended to address the jury directly, but was an op-ed about the jury system as a whole.
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ATTORNEY, GLORIA ALLRED, SAYING:
"This is a big day because they jury is finally going to begin to deliberate.”
That’s Gloria Allred, attorney for Haleyi– who testified that Weinstein "lunged" at her, backed her into a bedroom and forcibly performed oral sex on her.
Mann testified that Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel room early in what she called an "extremely degrading" relationship with him.
Defense attorney Rotunno argued that the encounters had been consensual, pointing to friendly communications from the women to Weinstein after they were allegedly assaulted.
But the verdict may well hang on the testimony of other women whose accusations were introduced as evidence of motive and to try to show that Weinstein had a signature pattern of behavior.
Costume designer Dawn Dunning, model Tarale Wulff and actress Lauren Young all testified they were enticed into meeting Weinstein for professional reasons and then groped or raped.
Actress Annabella Sciorra also testified that Weinstein raped her in her apartment in the early 90s.
Her accusation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but could act as an aggravating factor to support a charge of predatory sexual assault.
Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
He has said he has never had nonconsensual sex.
The trial is watershed moment in the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in a variety of fields of sexual misconduct.
Weinstein faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge of predatory sexual assault.