Harvey Weinstein's Lawyer: Number of Accusers 'Helps' His Defense

In an interview with CNN, Donna Rotunno also discussed cross-examining Annabella Sciorra and the #MeToo movement

Donna Rotunno, one of Harvey Weinstein’s lead attorneys, says that sheer number of women who have come forward to accuse the disgraced movie mogul of sexual misconduct could actually help him in his criminal trial, which begins on Monday.

During a Saturday morning interview with CNN, host Michael Smerconish asked Rotunno how the court would be able to find a “fair and impartial jury” given that more than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein of misconduct.

“In some ways, that number sort of helps us, because once the jury sits down and the jury hears that this is only about two women, I think they start to wonder how truthful those other circumstances are,” Rotunno said. “Or, if there were so many, why aren’t they a part of the criminal case?”

Weinstein, who has pleaded not guilty, faces five counts, including for predatory sexual assault and rape, based on the accusations of Mimi Haleyi and an unnamed woman for incidents they say occurred in 2006 and 2013. Rotunno also asserted that the defense has a “wealth of evidence” to show that the accusations “don’t rise to the level of rape,” and said that the jury could not factor whether Weinstein testifies or not into their decision-making process.

As for the more high-profile celebrities who have come forward — like Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette and Mira Sorvino — most of their accounts will not be factored into the upcoming trial because the alleged incidents took place outside the statute of limitations or did not take place in New York, where the trial is being held.

Still, at least one actress is expected to take the stand: Annabella Sciorra, who has accused Weinstein of rape. While Weinstein cannot be charged for her account of an incident in the early 199os, which falls outside the statute of limitations, her testimony is expected to bolster the prosecution’s case against Weinstein. And when asked by Smerconish about cross-examining Sciorra, Rotunno said she anticipated the actress would be an “excellent witness on the stand.”

“Annabella Sciorra is an actress, and she has spent an entire life acting for a living, and I anticipate that she will be an excellent witness on the stand,” Rotunno said. “I’m sure she will be prepared to answer my questions, she will be ready for what I am going to ask her, and again, I think the circumstances and the facts and the evidence in the case will show to the jury that she, her statements don’t rise to the level of what the prosecution is asking the jury to convict Mr. Weinstein on.”

Later in the interview, Rotunno commented on the #MeToo movement and cautioned against the adage of “believe women.”

“If we live under a system — whether it’s the justice system, whether it’s a system of social justice — to say that we must believe someone just because they make a claim, that’s problematic for you, for me, and for every American citizen,” Rotunno said. “I think there are many good things that come from #MeToo, but in the end, if #MeToo strips you of your rights to due process and a fair trial, then as a criminal defense attorney, I have to say that there’s problems with it.”

Watch the interview above.

Harvey Weinstein Scandal: A Timeline of a Hollywood Mogul's Downfall (Photos)

  • Harvey Weinstein was once the king of the indie film world. But the Oscar-winning producer’s career and reputation have imploded since fall 2017, when scores of women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Here’s a breakdown of what happened.

  • OCTOBER 5, 2017  

    The New York Times published a story revealing that Harvey Weinstein had paid financial settlements to at least eight women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault. Actress Ashley Judd is the only accuser to go on the record, accusing the mogul of assaulting her in his hotel room. In a statement, Weinstein apologizes, vows to take a self-imposed leave of absence from his company, and bizarrely declares war on the NRA.

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  • OCTOBER 6, 2017   

    Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, as well as other Congressional Democrats, donate campaign contributions they received from Weinstein to charity.

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  • OCTOBER 8, 2017 

    Weinstein is fired as CEO from The Weinstein Company.

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  • OCTOBER 10, 2017   

    The New Yorker publishes its own piece, written by Ronan Farrow, in which three women, including Italian actress Asia Argento, accuse Weinstein of rape. Through a spokesperson, Weinstein denies any account of nonconsensual sex.

  • Hours after the New Yorker article runs, the New York Times publishes on-the-record accusations of inappropriate behavior from Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.

  • Weinstein’s wife, the fashion designer Georgina Chapman, announces their separation that same day.

     

  • OCTOBER 11, 2017   

    BAFTA suspends Weinstein’s membership. AMPAS holds a special meeting to consider consequences for Weinstein’s “repugnant” actions.

     

  • Model and actress Cara Delevingne also comes forward on Oct. 11 to accuse Weinstein of making sexually inappropriate comments and harassing her.

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  • OCTOBER 12, 2017   

    The NYPD and London’s Metro Police both launch criminal investigations of Weinstein. On social media, Rose McGowan accuses Weinstein of raping her. (He has consistently denied engaging in nonconsensual sex.)

     

  • OCTOBER 13, 2017   

    Director Quentin Tarantino, arguably Weinstein’s greatest discovery, says he is “heartbroken” by the scandal. A petition to expel Weinstein from AMPAS passes 100,000 signatures.

     

  • OCTOBER 14, 2017   

    The AMPAS Board of Governors expels Weinstein. The Weinstein Company’s development slate falls apart, losing projects with David O. Russell and more. Release of Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Current War” is delayed.

     

  • OCTOBER 15, 2017  

    Actress Alyssa Milano kicks off a cultural movement by encouraging women to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault on social media. She asks them to tag the stories #MeToo.

  • OCTOBER 16, 2017   

    The Producers Guild of America votes unanimously to terminate Weinstein’s membership.

     

  • OCTOBER 17, 2017  

    Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy vows to start an industry-wide commission to create “protections against harassment and abuse.” Frequent Weinstein collaborator and filmmaker Kevin Smith vows to donate all of his Weinstein Company residuals to Women in Film.

  • OCTOBER 25, 2017   

    The Taylor Sheridan film “Wind River,” which had a successful release by the Weinstein Company in August, excises the Weinstein name from its home video and streaming releases. Principal financier Acadia Entertainment buys the film back from TWC and self-funds an awards campaign. (It doesn’t land any Oscar nominations.)

     

  • NOVEMBER 6, 2017   

    The Television Academy bans Weinstein for life. The New Yorker runs a follow-up piece saying a battery of former Mossad agents and communications experts were used to silence stories of Weinstein’s impropriety for years.

     

  • NOVEMBER 15, 2017   

    TWC is hit with a class-action lawsuit from several of Weinstein’s accusers. The company is forced to sell its live-action “Paddington 2” to Warner Bros. to help infuse the studio with cash and keep the doors open.

  • DECEMBER 6, 2017   

    The Academy announces its “standards of conduct,” which read, in part, “The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality.”

     

  • JANUARY 1, 2018  

    #TimesUp is born as four female talent agents from CAA create a legal defense fund for women in the U.S. workforce to protect them from sexual harassment. The effort is announced  and endorsed by contributors like Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Fox Film head Stacey Snider, Fox TV honcho Dana Walden,  Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

    JANUARY 7

    To draw attention to the mistreatment of women in Hollywood, virtually all women attending the Golden Globes wear black.

    JANUARY 8

    Immediately after he wins a Golden Globe wearing a #TimesUp pin, James Franco is accused of sexual misconduct by several women. The accusations, which the actor denies, come in the middle of the Oscar nomination voting period.

    JANUARY 9

    Lady Bird writer-director Greta Gerwig joins Mira Sorvino, Chloe Sevigny and others in saying she would not work in the future with director Woody Allen, who had been accused of sexual assault by his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow. (He has repeatedly denied the accusation.)

  • JANUARY 10, 2018   

    Page Six reports that Weinstein and Chapman reached the terms of an eight-figure divorce settlement, with Chapman securing primary custody of the couple’s two children.

  • JANUARY 27, 2018   

    The Academy emails members to reveal the process by which violations of its code of conduct can be reported.

  • FEBRUARY 6, 2018   

    “I may be a 75-year-old white male,” says Academy President John Bailey at the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon, “but I’m as gratified as any of you that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses [is] being jackhammered into oblivion.” (One month later, the Academy would investigate — and then dismiss — accusations of sexual harassment against Bailey himself.)

  • FEBRUARY 8, 2018  

    Los Angeles police send three sexual assault cases concerning Weinstein to the city’s district attorney for possible charges.

  • MARCH 19, 2018  

    The Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy in Delaware, reporting that it had less than $500,000 in cash on hand. Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners stepped up as a stalking horse bidder prepared to buy virtually all of the company’s assets for $310 million.

    As part of the company’s bankruptcy filing, TWC also released all of Weinstein’s accusers from any non-disclosure agreements that would’ve prevented them from speaking about Weinstein’s alleged misconduct.

  • MAY 8, 2018  

    Despite a last-minute bid from Broadway producer Howard Kagan’s Inclusion Media, a Delaware bankruptcy judge approves Lantern Capital’s purchase of The Weinstein Company’s assets.

  • MAY 25, 2018 

    Following a months-long investigation by the NYPD, Weinstein is arrested on three felony charges of rape and criminal sex act in connection with two female accusers. Weinstein pleads not guilty and released on $1 million bail pending trial.

  • MAY 30, 2018   

    Weinstein is indicted on charges of rape in the first and third degrees, as well as on charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree, as announced by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Then on June 1, Three women filed additional charges against Weinstein in a class action lawsuit, saying that Weinstein isolated the women “in an attempt to engage in unwanted sexual conduct that took many forms: flashing, groping, fondling, harassing, battering, false imprisonment, sexual assault and attempted rape, and/or completed rape.” 

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  • JUNE 5, 2018  

    Weinstein pleads not guilty to the charges in his indictment.

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  • JULY 2, 2018  

    A grand jury served Weinstein with three more sexual assault charges, an additional count of criminal sexual act in the first degree for forcing a woman to have sex with him in 2006, and two counts of predatory sexual assault. The latter charge carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of a life sentence. Weinstein would plead not guilty. 

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  • AUGUST 3, 2018   

    Weinstein made a push to have a New York judge toss out a criminal sexual assault case brought against him, saying in a filing that the Manhattan district attorney “failed to provide the Grand Jury with exculpatory evidence of the long-term, consensual, intimate relationship between Mr. Weinstein and the alleged rape victim.”

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  • AUGUST 19, 2018  

    A report in the New York Times said Asia Argento paid a settlement of $380,000 to actor Jimmy Bennett after accusing her of sexually assaulting him when he was just 17. Argento denied the accusations. Rose McGowan distanced herself from Argento, and Weinstein issued a statement saying Argento displayed a “stunning level of hypocrisy.” “The sheer duplicity of her conduct is quite extraordinary and should demonstrate to everyone how poorly the allegations against Mr. Weinstein were actually vetted and accordingly, cause all of us to pause and allow due process to prevail, not condemnation by fundamental dishonesty,” the statement continued.

  • AUGUST 30, 2018  

    Former NBC News producer Richard McHugh said that people at “the very highest levels of NBC” worked to quash Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein story that eventually published in The New Yorker. Then on Sept. 3, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack sent an internal memo saying that after eight months, Farrow’s reporting “did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record.” Farrow disputed the memo and said NBC’s list of sources was incomplete. 

  • SEPTEMBER 6, 2018  

    The U.S. Attorney’s office in New York opened an investigation into Weinstein’s involvement with the private spy firm Black Cube to see if he violated any federal wire fraud laws. Weinstein had hired Black Cube to gather information on those accusing him of sexual assault.

  • AUGUST 26, 2019   

    Weinstein is indicted on two new charges of predatory sexual assault. He faces seven counts, including first-degree and third-degree rape.

    The new indictment also allows for Annabella Sciorra to testify at his trial. Though Weinstein cannot be charged for raping Sciorra at her apartment in 1993, as she had said in a 2017 interview with the New Yorker, the actress’ testimony could strengthen the D.A.’s case against Weinstein.

    The criminal trial, originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 9, is also pushed back to Jan. 2020.

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  • SEPTEMBER 6, 2019   

    A judge grants the consolidation of charges against Weinstein, bringing the count back down to five. The consolidation, which was voluntarily requested by the district attorney’s office, dismisses prosecutors’ earlier charges of predatory sexual assault and essentially replaces them with the two new charges of predatory sexual assault that were included in the indictment last month.

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  • SEPTEMBER 10, 2019   

    Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times reporters who first broke the Weinstein story, publish their book “She Said,” which chronicles their investigation into the mogul and the aftermath of their initial story.

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  • OCTOBER 15, 2019   

    Ronan Farrow publishes “Catch and Kill,” his own recounting of reporting on Weinstein and the roadblocks he faced while trying to publish his work at NBC News. The book includes damning revelations about NBC News’ leadership and a detailed accusation of rape against Matt Lauer. (Lauer has denied the accusation, and NBC News has repeatedly denied many of the details in the book.) 

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  • DECEMBER 11, 2019   

    Weinstein and his accusers reach a tentative $25 million settlement. $6.2 million will be split between 18 women, with none of them receiving more than $500,000 individually. The remaining $18.5 million would be set aside as a pool of money for participants in a class-action suit against Weinstein, the New York Attorney General’s civil suit, or future claimants. The $25 million is part of a larger $47 million settlement for TWC to close out its remaining obligations.

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  • Time’s Up denounces the tentative settlement, describing it as emblematic of a “broken system that privileges powerful abusers at the expense of survivors.”

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  • After accusations of ankle bracelet tampering, Weinstein’s bail is increased to $5 million.

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  • JANUARY 6, 2020   

    The first day of Weinstein’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin in Manhattan.

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A chronological look at how the indie mogul’s career and reputation unraveled

Harvey Weinstein was once the king of the indie film world. But the Oscar-winning producer’s career and reputation have imploded since fall 2017, when scores of women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Here’s a breakdown of what happened.

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