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Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer Says Accusers Lacked ‘Common Sense’

A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein told the jury during closing arguments at his rape trial on Thursday that Mr. Weinstein was the victim of an “overzealous prosecution” and seemed to blame the women who came forward to accuse him of sexual assault for not taking responsibility for their own behavior.

The lawyer, Donna Rotunno, opened her remarks by assailing prosecutors from the Manhattan’s district attorney’s office for weaving “a sinister tale” during the trial, one that depicted Mr. Weinstein as a villain and his accusers as innocent victims, devoid of both “autonomy” and “common sense.” She argued that his accusers had, in fact, made choices and engaged in consensual and often transactional relationships with him.

“In their universe,” Ms. Rotunno said, “women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they expect, the jobs they hope to obtain.

“They aren’t even responsible for sitting at their computers and sending an email across the country,” she added. “In this script, the powerful man is so unattractive and large that no woman would ever want to sleep with him voluntarily.”

Ms. Rotunno’s arguments came as the monthlong trial was winding down. She implored the jury not to give in to public pressure, but to focus on the facts that were presented.

“You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein — this is not a popularity contest,” Ms. Rotunno said, adding moments later: “If you look at the evidence alone, they lose.”

Mr. Weinstein, 67, a former powerhouse producer in Hollywood who made the films “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has been on trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan for the last month.

The trial is widely seen as a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement, which gained momentum in 2017 after Mr. Weinstein was publicly accused of assaulting and harassing numerous women. He has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. If convicted on the predatory assault charge, he would face up to life in prison.

In all, six women took the stand during the trial and testified that Mr. Weinstein sexually assaulted them, though he faces charges based on the allegations of only two of them: Jessica Mann, a former actress who said he raped her in 2013, and Miriam Haley, a former production assistant who said he forced oral sex on her in 2006.

The presiding judge, Justice James M. Burke, has allowed the other women to testify about their own encounters so that prosecutors can establish a pattern of behavior, even though their allegations are too old to be charged as crimes under New York State law. The actress Annabella Sciorra, for instance, took the stand under the legal theory that her testimony would support the charges of predatory sexual assault.

In the early part of her remarks to the jury, Ms. Rotunno focused on Ms. Haley, suggesting she had used Mr. Weinstein to further her career and kept in touch with him through seemingly friendly emails well after she said he had attacked them.

“She was using him for jobs,” Ms. Rotunno said.

Ms. Rotunno also suggested that Ms. Haley’s relationship with Mr. Weinstein was something close to a romance. “They have to label it as a professional relationship because if they labeled it as what it was, we wouldn’t be here,” she said of the prosecution.

Ms. Rotunno then went on to argue that what Ms. Mann had described as a rape by Mr. Weinstein was in reality a consensual encounter. She insinuated that Ms. Mann herself was responsible for what had happened.

Ms. Mann, Ms. Rotunno said, went willingly to Mr. Weinstein’s hotel room, got undressed and laid down on his bed. She never tried to stop Mr. Weinstein or push him away, and after the encounter, the lawyer said, she went to brunch.

“This is not rape,” Ms. Rotunno said. “This is not sexual assault. This is someone who agrees to do what had been discussed.”

Prosecutors will present closing remarks on Friday. The jury of seven men and five women will begin deliberating on Tuesday.

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