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Harvey Weinstein chooses not to take stand as defense rests its case | Film

Harvey Weinstein’s defense has rested its case in his rape trial, relying on just a few witnesses to supplement aggressive cross-examination as they aimed to undercut his accusers while keeping the disgraced Hollywood producer off the witness stand.

As expected, Weinstein chose not to tell his own story, at the risk of having prosecutors grill him about disturbing allegations that six accusers detailed for a Manhattan jury of seven men and five women.

The decision came a day after the defense got a boost from two witnesses who cast doubt on the accounts of two women who say they were sexually assaulted by Weinstein.

Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex in 2006 on a different woman, assistant Miriam Haley. Prosecutors called other accusers as witnesses as part of an effort to show Weinstein has used the same tactics to victimise many women over the years.

Weinstein has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.

The name of the woman accusing Weinstein of raping her in 2013 has been withheld, as it is not clear if she wishes to be identified publicly.

The trial has moved much more quickly than anyone involved expected. Jurors were initially told to expect six weeks of testimony. Now it is on pace for closing arguments by the end of the week, with deliberations to follow.

“I am not a fan of blowing the lead if I feel like we are already on a road to victory,” said Brian McMonagle, a defence lawyer not involved in the case who helped secure a mistrial in Bill Cosby’s first sexual assault trial in 2017.

“In some cases, it is an easy decision because the client either can’t provide a credible explanation or you simply do not believe your client could survive cross examination because of any number or reasons.”

Weinstein has been increasingly upbeat coming and going from court, though in front of jurors he has mostly sat quietly at the defense table, chewing mints, jotting notes and occasionally dozing off.

On Monday, after strong testimony from a defense witness who repudiated the account of one accuser, his lawyer Arthur Aidala declared: “It was a great day for the defense today.”

Claudia Salinas, a Mexican model and actor, defended herself against accuser Lauren Marie Young’s claim that she stood by and did nothing while Weinstein sexually assaulted Young at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2013.

“Never happened,” Salinas told jurors.

Young, a model, testified last week that Salinas closed the door behind her and Weinstein as they went into the bathroom, where she alleges he stripped off his clothes, grabbed her breast and masturbated.

Once it was over, Young said she found Salinas standing outside the bathroom and shot her an evil look before leaving as quickly as she could.

“If I had done that, I would remember that,” Salinas testified. “I would never close the door on anybody.”

In some other high-profile sex crimes cases, defendants have skipped testifying. For example, Cosby did not take the witness stand either time he was tried for drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home. The second trial, in 2018, resulted in the comedian’s conviction.

In another high-profile case, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was eager to testify at his 2012 trial on child sexual abuse charges. But that was before his adopted son lodged allegations of abuse against him as the trial was going on. If Sandusky had testified, prosecutors could have called the son as a rebuttal witness.

“I tell my clients once you take the stand you have lost your shield, which is me, and you are on your own,” said McMonagle, who was not involved in Sandusky case. “In my experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney it is rare to see a client take the stand. The problem is, some jurors do hold that against you.”

  • In the US, Rainn offers support at 800-656-4673 or by chat at Rainn.org. In the UK, the rape crisis national freephone helpline is at 0808-802-9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800-737-7328) or 1800respect.org.au. Other international helplines can be found at Ibiblio.org.

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