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Case against Weinstein a 'sinister tale', says lawyer

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‘Consensual’: Harvey Weinstein has denied rape and sexual assault. Photo: AP

‘Consensual’: Harvey Weinstein has denied rape and sexual assault. Photo: AP

AP

‘Consensual’: Harvey Weinstein has denied rape and sexual assault. Photo: AP

Harvey Weinstein's lawyer told jurors yesterday that prosecutors in the rape case against him were acting like movie makers, creating a world where "women are not responsible" for how they interact with men.

Mr Weinstein is innocent, his lawyer Donna Rotunno said, appealing to jurors to ignore "outside forces" and use their "New York City common sense" in weighing a case seen as a watershed for the #MeToo movement. It was fuelled by the downfall of Mr Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most influential figures.

Ms Rotunno, who has taken heat from #MeToo supporters for her advocacy for the disgraced movie producer, argued the prosecution had to come up with a "sinister tale" about him because they don't have the evidence to prove the charges.

"The irony is that they are the producers and they are writing the script," Ms Rotunno said. "In their universe, women are not responsible" for their behaviour when they engage with men, she added.

Ms Rotunno faces a tricky task: convincing the jury of seven men and five women that there are too many inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimony of Mr Weinstein's accusers, without breaking her earlier promise that jurors wouldn't hear any "victim shaming".

"You don't have to like Mr Weinstein," she said. "This is not a popularity contest."

Mr Weinstein is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on a different woman, Mimi Haleyi, in 2006. Other accusers testified as part of the prosecution to show he used the same tactics to victimise many women over the years.

Mr Weinstein has maintained any sexual encounters were consensual.

The jury was scheduled to hear the prosecution closing before getting instructions on the law from Judge James Burke next week and starting deliberations.

In often emotional testimony, Mr Weinstein's accusers said he lured them to hotels in New York and Los Angeles on the pretence of promoting their acting careers and then sexually assaulted them.

The defence countered by confronting some accusers with friendly emails and other communications with Mr Weinstein that continued for months or even years after the alleged attacks.

In her closing argument, Ms Rotunno said the emails offered "real-time evidence" of what happened between Mr Weinstein and the women.

She pointed to a 2007 message from Ms Haleyi asking how Mr Weinstein was doing and signing off with "lots of love" - the year after he allegedly sexually assaulted Ms Haleyi, who he employed on the Weinstein-produced TV show 'Project Runway'.

Irish Independent