'Finally': Ashley Judd, other Harvey Weinstein accusers respond to film mogul being convicted of felony sex crimes

Harvey Weinstein was one of the most powerful tastemakers in Hollywood. Now, after a Manhattan jury convicted him of two felony sex crimes, he faces the prospect of years in prison.

While the New York case was narrowly focused — the criminal charges centred largely on just two women — its symbolism was sweeping. More than 90 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, and the allegations against him set off the global #MeToo movement.

Weinstein is the first high-profile man to be ousted from a position of power during the movement and then criminally prosecuted. (He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.)

Moments after the jury announced its decision Monday, The New York Times asked some of Weinstein’s accusers, other stakeholders in the #MeToo movement and legal experts to interpret the verdict’s meaning.

Their responses have been edited and condensed.

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Dawn Dunning is a former actress who served as one of several supporting witnesses at Weinstein’s trial, testifying about what prosecutors said was a pattern of predation by the producer.

It was very nerve-racking to testify. I knew I’d have to see him and talk about what happened to me.

I did it for all of us. I did it for the women who couldn’t testify. I couldn’t not do it.

My biggest fear was him being found not guilty. I’m very relieved. But he wasn’t found guilty on all of the counts, so I feel like it was a victory, but not a complete victory. This verdict made it real for people watching from afar that you will be held accountable for your actions. You can’t take advantage of people just because you have power and money.

Either way, regardless of the verdict, it didn’t change how hard it was to be face to face with him in the courtroom, and testifying in a room full of press. The cross-examination was really difficult.

It was definitely the most stressful thing I’ve done in my life.

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Tarana Burke is the activist who started the original #MeToo movement more than a decade ago.

Most of us will never see the inside of the courtroom, but these women got to take the stand, look him in the eye, and say, “You did this to me.”

He will forever be guilty. That’s a thing we have.

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Ashley Judd was the first actress to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The story of #MeToo, of what the movement is about, is that men no longer have tacit permission to use their power or prestige to sexually access girls’ and women’s bodies. Their power and position cannot be used in secret or in the open to exploit asymmetry of power. There will be consequences in the courtroom, in employment and in society.

This is the way it’s supposed to be. This is the way it’s supposed to be.

And I think that Harvey’s guilty verdict demonstrates how overwhelmingly guilty he was. A perpetrator has to be overwhelmingly guilty for justice to be served at this time.

I would love for Harvey to have a restorative justice process in which he could come emotionally to terms with his wrongs. The criminal justice system is a distant second to a more humane kind of process. This is what he has created for himself: Prison, lack of remorse, lack of accountability. The man is going to prison for sex crimes.

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Aya Gruber is a former defence lawyer and a law professor at the University of Colorado.

I have mixed reactions about the whole case. On the one hand, I am myself a sexual assault survivor and I believe that the #MeToo movement is good. On the other hand, as a former defence attorney, hinging the future of women’s rights on a criminal conviction is a little troubling to me.

The thought that one case could be representative of the entire world of victims and defendants is just wrong. But that’s what happened in this case. It became symbolic of not just the entire universe of sexual assault cases, but the entire women’s movement.

When we bend rules to favour prosecutors, it’s not always the Harvey Weinsteins. When you look at the majority of sex offenders, especially as we’re broadening the definition of what counts as a sex offence, a lot of them are juveniles. People who are figuring out their sexuality. A lot of them are people of colour and from marginalised neighbourhoods. And they’re going to be caught up in a system that is extremely harsh, and possibly branded for life.

What is the fallout from a #MeToo movement that insists on incarceration as part of its justice goals?

Harvey Weinstein needed to be held accountable. But sex offenders have a horrible time in jail. It is going to be terrible, State-imposed suffering and torture. I have a hard time feeling happy about that. If accountability can only come through decades in horrific conditions in jail, I don’t love that. Not for anyone.

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Irwin Reiter worked as Weinstein’s corporate accountant for 30 years. He provided information to The Times that allowed the paper to break the story of Weinstein’s alleged misbehaviour in 2017.

The quotes were always the same coming out of his mouth. Everyone who worked for him heard it a thousand times: “I’m superman and you’re not. I’m a genius and you’re all clerks.” The guy thought he could do whatever he wanted.

When they said it was seven men on the jury, I said: Good. Because most men are just as appalled by his behaviour. It’s time for men who witness bad behaviour to have the courage to step up and bear witness to it. Never ever forget that these abused women can be your daughter.

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Fatima Goss Graves is the president of the National Women’s Law Center.

What defence attorneys do is create a narrative that only one type of person could experience sexual violence, and that there is only one type of response. They discount behaviours that are actually really typical in an effort to blame victims. This moment we are in is an opportunity to disrupt the story of a typical survivor, and to disrupt the story of a typical response.

When I think about the last two years, we’ve seen important examples of individual accountability. I have great hope that individuals in this case have a measure of justice around them. But the last two years have been bigger than one individual. They’ve been about systems changing, creating new norms and laws that will propel us further in the future. I’m hopeful about the future.

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Erika Rosenbaum is a Canadian actress who has accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. She told The Times her story in 2017.

It cost a lot of women something very personal to change this.

I’m really grateful. I’m really grateful to the women who took the stand, who dared to put themselves out there and endure that examination.

He was found guilty and will be labelled a sexual predator, rightfully so. That’s going to follow him for the rest of his life.

The white and wealthy and powerful actually paid a price today.

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Chanel Miller wrote a memoir, Know My Name, about her experience as the victim in a high-profile sexual assault case.

Let it not be lost that every victim who walked through the courtroom doors has just added another layer to their trauma. Justice has come at the cost of their pain. May they unlearn any distorted ideas or character assaults that were fed to them during the trial. What happened was real. It was always wrong. I wish for their rest and well-being.

Today we locked one man in one cell. We made progress because survivors keep speaking. Still, this was a case where many others looked away for decades. It was not just power that made him untouchable, people did. We cannot be afforded the neatness of closure. We should confront the question on our collective conscience: The next time you are aware of violence, will you be silent or speak?

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Isabelle Kirshner is a former Manhattan prosecutor turned criminal defence lawyer who has represented men accused of sexual assault.

This wasn’t “Believe all women,” and certainly not “Believe everything women are saying.”

Had they believed all women, and what all the women said, he would have been convicted on all charges. It looks like they were fairly careful on what they decided.

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Jane Manning is a former Queens prosecutor who is director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project.

It’s a historic day. A predator who was once untouchable has finally been held accountable. All of the women who spoke out about Harvey Weinstein are heroes: The ones who received a guilty verdict, and the many who didn’t.

Annabella Sciorra’s case stretches farther back in time than the others; perhaps that was a challenge for the jury. But there’s no doubt in my mind that her testimony mattered. It helped establish a pattern; it supported the accounts of Miriam Haleyi and Jessica Mann. She deserves admiration and gratitude for her courage; all the prosecution witnesses do.

The conviction of Harvey Weinstein is a stunning victory for every single woman who refused to remain silent any longer.

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Rowena Chiu is a former assistant at Miramax, the production company founded by Harvey Weinstein and his brother, Bob. She accused Weinstein of assaulting her on the job in 1998.

I had said in an interview a few days ago, that this isn’t just a story of one man. Even in the light of a conviction, it isn’t just one person. Obviously it is a really important victory for the #MeToo movement. But the #MeToo movement is much, much bigger than what happens to Harvey. This is certainly a moment of great encouragement and a milestone for me personally and the movement as a whole.

In some ways, I feel that the life I’ve built today, every day that I live and enjoy my life is a victory over Harvey. That is much more meaningful than going for a legal victory. Because we all know the legal system is flawed.

Many of us are doing incredible work that stems from surviving trauma. I think that is very much something I want to put out there. Many of us are doing these incredible things. The very fact that I’m with my kids in a sand pit, is a victory over Harvey, whether he ends up in jail or not.

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Debra Katz, a civil rights and employment lawyer, has represented several people who have spoken out about Weinstein.

There was a great deal of tension in the courtroom this morning, waiting for the jury. When we got to the first count of guilty, there was a feeling of extraordinary relief.

I felt some measure of justice had been done. He is now a convicted rapist. It was an extraordinary moment of social reckoning. It’s no longer OK to say that this was transactional, that these women knew exactly what they were getting. It’s no longer acceptable to blame women for the fact that they were targeted by a sexual predator. This was a true repudiation of the arguments that Donna Rotunno, his lawyer, made, that these women used Weinstein and that he was an unwitting victim.

When Rotunno exited the courthouse today, her response was extremely telling. She said Harvey Weinstein was completely shocked. For a man who has taken this kind of advantage and abused women for decades and taken this as his prerogative, I would say he is shocked.

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Lucia Evans’ accusation of sexual assault against Weinstein was originally included, and then dropped, from the New York case.

I am so impressed by the women who participated in the criminal case up through the verdict. Witnessing firsthand many of the obstacles that stood in their way only deepens my appreciation of their courage. I truly wish I was given the opportunity to stand next to them, to see my case through to the end.

Hopefully this gives more women the strength to come forward.

It really took a village of women to do this.

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Roger Canaff is a lawyer and former New York City sex crimes prosecutor.

It’s a tremendous victory for the Manhattan DA’s office — one of the most impressive and surprising convictions I’ve seen in 25 years of doing this work.

I think that more offices will be encouraged to bring more difficult cases because of this verdict.

I really do think this verdict is going to be looked at as a very important milestone in how powerful men are going to be held accountable.

I think this is indicative of a change in how we are going to view acceptable male behaviour, how we may be able to hold offenders like Weinstein, powerful men, and powerful women, how we can hold those offenders accountable, not only in the court of public opinion, but courts of law as well.

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Zelda Perkins is a former Miramax assistant who was the first woman to break a nondisclosure agreement with Weinstein.

Harvey going down for five years, 10 years, is not the end of this. This does not solve the problem. We can’t all just turn our eyes back to normal life and think everything is OK.

The fight absolutely doesn’t stop here. I think Harvey has become the ogre and the figurehead of this awful situation, but he is not the only one. And I think we have to remember that #MeToo was not about Harvey Weinstein. Tarana Burke did not start #MeToo because of Weinstein.

#MeToo has not been finished by him going to jail. And I hope this is the beginning of judges and juries understanding and taking the nuances of abuses of power more seriously.

Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Grace Ashford, Catrin Einhorn and Ellen Gabler c.2020 The New York Times Company

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Updated Date: Feb 25, 2020 07:50:58 IST