Harvey Weinstein chooses not to testify at New York rape trial, defense rests case

FP Staff

Feb 12, 2020 09:47:27 IST

Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein will not testify in his own defense at his rape trial, his lawyers said on Tuesday as they rested their case.

As expected, Weinstein chose not to testify, avoiding the risk of having prosecutors grill him on cross-examination about the vile allegations. He confirmed the decision after returning to the courtroom from meeting with his lawyers behind closed doors for about a half-hour as speculation swirled that he was pushing to testify.

 Harvey Weinstein chooses not to testify at New York rape trial, defense rests case

Harvey Weinstein. AP

Outside the presence of the jury, one of Weinstein’s lawyers told Justice James Burke that Weinstein would not be taking the stand in the trial that began in New York on 6 January and is a milestone in the #MeToo movement.

“That’s correct,” Weinstein confirmed when asked by the judge.

The defense rested its case shortly after this exchange, setting the stage for closing arguments to begin on Thursday.

Asked outside the courtroom whether he had been thinking of testifying, Weinstein responded, “I wanted to.”

“He didn’t have to,” said one of his lawyers, Damon Cheronis.

Arthur Aidala, another one of his lawyers, said outside the courthouse that Weinstein had been “anxious to testify to clear his name,” but that his lawyers had advised him that “he did not need to do that because the evidence presented in this case was anemic at best.”

Earlier on Tuesday, a former agent of an accuser took the stand, testifying that she showed no signs of distress on the morning she says she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to raping the accuser, a onetime aspiring actress, and to sexually assaulting a former production assistant.

The aspiring actress accused Weinstein of raping her in a Manhattan hotel one morning in March 2013. She previously testified that the rape occurred in the course of an “extremely degrading” relationship with Weinstein that lasted for years.

Thomas Richards, a former friend and agent of the accuser testified that he had breakfast with the accuser and Weinstein the same day. Richards told jurors that the dynamic between her and Weinstein appeared “friendly.”

Richards testified under a subpoena from the defense. Asked by Weinstein’s lawyer Damon Cheronis whether he was testifying to help Weinstein, Richards answered, “Not at all.”

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, Richards said he had been drinking the night before breakfast and his memory of the next day was not clear.

On Monday, the accuser's former friend Talita Maia, a Brazilian-born actress, testified that the accuser did not show any distress after the alleged attack. The accuser has said Richards was also with her in New York at the time.

The trial is a key moment in the #MeToo movement in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The former producer, who was behind films including The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love, has denied any nonconsensual sex.

Weinstein faces life in prison if convicted of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charge against him.

Prosecutors rested their case last Thursday after jurors heard testimony from six women accusing Weinstein of sexual assault.

Weinstein has hobbled into court each day with a walker, parking the device behind the defense table. His lawyers say it’s needed because of recent back surgery, but Illuzzi said it seemed more like a prop put there to sway jurors’ sympathies.

“It is not a prop! Enough!” Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis said.

“You can scream all you like,” Illuzzi said. “They did not have to have the walker back there.”

After more bickering, Judge James Burke said it was fine for Illuzzi to mention Weinstein’s physical changes, but warned: “Leave the walker out of it.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2020 09:52:20 IST