"You made the choice to go to his room." Inside the courtroom of Harvey Weinstein's trial.


Content warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers.

As the trial of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein drew to a close, his defence lawyer Donna Rotunno told jurors they were the last line of defence in the country from an “overzealous media” and “overzealous prosecution”.

She urged jurors to acquit him, taking aim at the credibility of his accusers.

Weinstein, 67, faces two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape and one count of a criminal sex act from the allegations of one-time aspiring actress Jessica Mann and production assistant Mimi Haleyi. A total of six women have testified, though the charges relate only to Mann and Haleyi.

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

Uma Thurman is just one of the women who has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Post continues below video.

Video via Mamamia

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


Rotunno urged jurors to make the “unpopular” decision to acquit her client.

“He was innocent when he walked through the door. He was innocent when witnesses started to take the stand. He is innocent as he sits here right now,” she said.

“Use your New York City common sense. It will guide you to the right answer.”

Rotunno is no stranger to closing remarks. A former prosecutor, the lawyer has made a name for herself defending men accused of sexual assault.

And of the 40 cases she’s tried, she has only lost one.

The allegations.

Jessica Mann.

Harvey Weinstein trial
Jessica Mann arrives at Manhattan criminal court to testify at the sex assault trial of Harvey Weinstein on January 31, 2020 in New York City. Image: Getty.

Three of the five charges against Weinstein relate to Jessica Mann.

Jessica Mann was 27 years old and an aspiring actress when she met Harvey Weinstein in 2012 at a party in Los Angeles. The two stayed in touch to discuss Mann’s acting career.

Weinstein later invited her and her friend to a hotel suite in Los Angeles, Mann testified in court. When they arrived, Weinstein pulled her into a bedroom, leaving her friend outside.

There, she said, Weinstein told her to sit on the bed and performed oral sex on her. Mann said she pretended to have an orgasm so he would stop - Weinstein is not charged with a crime in connection with this specific encounter.

Mann said she maintained a relationship with Weinstein after this. "It was extremely degrading from that point on," she testified.

Mann said she engaged in oral sex with Weinstein during the relationship but never had intercourse with him until he raped her.

On March 18, 2013, Mann and Weinstein planned a breakfast meeting at a Manhattan hotel, the jury heard.

He allegedly persuaded Mann to go to her hotel room with him. When they arrived, Mann said he used an erectile enhancer before raping her.


Mimi Haleyi.

Gloria Allred Holds Press Conference With New Alleged Victim Of Harvey Weinstein
Mimi Haleyi (L) and Attorney Gloria Allred. Image: Getty.

Mimi Haleyi is a former production assistant of Harvey Weinstein. She asked the movie mogul for work upon seeing him at the Cannes Film Festival in March 2006. He employed her, working on the set of Project Runway.

One night in 2006, Haleyi went to Weinstein's home in New York City for a meeting.

"At some point, fairly soon into meeting him there, he kind of came towards me and lunged at me," Haleyi testified. "I got up from the sofa and said, 'Oh, no, no, no.'"


Haleyi recalls Weinstein taking her to his bedroom, despite her objection.

Haleyi testified that she told the producer she had a tampon in, at which he point he jerked it out of her vagina. He then allegedly forcibly performed oral sex on Haleyi.

A former roommate of Haleyi has corroborated her account, saying she told Haleyi at the time that the encounter "sounds like rape".

In relation to Haleyi, Weinstein is charged with one count of criminal sexual act and predatory sexual assault.

Some time later, she said, she went to see him in a hotel in an effort to "regain some sort of power." Weinstein pulled her onto a bed and had sex with her, Haleyi testified.

Haleyi said she "went numb" during the encounter and did not want to have sex with Weinstein. Under cross-examination, she said she had not been forced. She acknowledged sending several friendly emails to Weinstein after the encounter.

Annabelle Sciorra.

Harvey Weinstein trial
Annabella Sciorra at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in 2018. Image: Getty.

Sopranos actress Annabelle Sciorra testified that Weinstein came to her apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994 and raped her.

The allegation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but it could act as an aggravating factor to support the most serious charge in the case, predatory sexual assault, which carries a possible life sentence.

"I was trying to get him off me," Sciorra tearfully recounted in her testimony. "I was punching him, kicking him. He got on top of me and he raped me."

Sciorra said she confronted Weinstein about the rape weeks later. She claims his response was "threatening, and I was afraid".

Lauren Young.

Lauren Young was a 22-year-old model and aspiring actress when she met Harvey Weinstein in 2012.


The producer was intrigued by a script Young was writing about her own life, and planned to meet with her and his friend at a bar in Beverly Hills.

Weinstein asked Young and his associate, Claudia Salinas, to go upstairs with him. Young alleged Salinas then shut the bathroom door, trapping her in a bathroom with Weinstein.

Dawn Dunning.

Harvey Weinstein trial
Dawn Dunning in 2019. Image: Getty.

Dawn Dunning was an aspiring actress when she met Weinstein in 2004. She told the court at a meeting in a Manhattan hotel, Dunning was taken to Weinstein's bedroom to talk about contracts.

Upon opening the door, Weinstein was allegedly wearing nothing but a bathrobe.

He pointed to the contracts, the prosecution said, and told her she could have the acting roles if she had three-way sex with Weinstein and his assistant. She refused and left.

Tarale Wulff.

Harvey Weinstein trial
Tarale Wulff at Manhattan Criminal Court during an intermission in testimony during the sexual assault trial of Harvey Weinstein on January 29, 2020 in New York City. Image: Getty.

In 2005, Tarale Wulff was a cocktail waitress and aspiring actress.

Wulff alleged Weinstein dragged her to a secluded terrace before allegedly masturbating in front of her. Prosecutors say she fled the terrace.

In the hope of acting work, Wulff agreed to have a meeting with Weinstein at his apartment. She was led to his bedroom, where she claims he raped her.

The defence.

Weinstein denies all allegations against him, insisting all sexual encounters were consensual.

In her closing statement, Rotunno called the prosecutor's narrative an "alternative universe".

"In their universe women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they accept, the jobs they ask for help to obtain," Rotunno said.

She spoke her four hours, systematically going through the allegations made against her client. She questioned the motives of the women, suggesting they were testifying for fame or money.

On Thursday, Rotunno said Haleyi and Weinstein had "more of a relationship than she wants you to believe," pointing to Haleyi's emails and her decision to accept plane tickets from Weinstein to Los Angeles and London after the alleged assault.

Image: Getty.

Rotunno said the "real time communication" between Haleyi and Weinstein would lead "any reasonable person" to conclude they had a good relationship.

Rotunno then said Mann's emails with Weinstein, as well as trial testimony from two of her friends at the time, indicated that she did not appear distressed after the alleged rape, undermining her story.

She said Mann "couldn't keep anything straight" under cross-examination.


Rotunno suggested Sciorra came forward to revive her career.

Mann had testified that Weinstein had blocked the door when she tried to leave the hotel room and ordered her to undress, and she felt compelled to comply.

"What does she do?" Rotunno asked. "She gets naked and she lays on the bed. This is not a rape. This is someone who agrees to do what has been discussed."

She also said that had Mann really been raped, she would have gotten an STI check.

Throughout the trial, Rotunno grilled Mann over a total of nine hours, which was halted on its first day as the witness suffered a panic attack. At another point, she was reduced to uncontrollable sobbing, The Guardian reported.

Rotunno had been firing questions at her: "Correct?" "You were manipulating Mr Weinstein so you’d get invited to fancy parties, correct?" "You wanted to benefit from the power, correct?" "You wanted to use his power, correct?"

She suggested Mann was a serial liar, after money and had sex with Weinstein to get into the film business.

She pressed Mann on why she chose to follow Weinstein to a Manhattan hotel room the day he allegedly raped her. Mann testified that she'd previously had sexual encounters with Weinstein that made her uncomfortable, and that she followed him to confront him about why he was checking into her hotel.

"You could have said, 'Harvey, I'm not going up there,'" Rotunno said. "All I'm asking you is, why you didn't make the choice to walk out the door? You made the choice to go up to the hotel room, knowing what had happened in the past."


Rotunno has not acknowledged the power imbalance between Weinstein and his accusers. She even flipped the #MeToo movement on its head, suggesting the accusers were the ones with the power - the ones who manipulated Weinstein, who she saw as a victim.

She has audibly scoffed in court at the supposed power imbalance and at suggestions by the prosecution that she was victim-blaming.

As Rotunno has framed it, the allegations all stemmed from poor choices by women and not from Weinstein's actions.

The interview.

Earlier this month, Rotunno was asked if she’d ever been sexually assaulted.

“I have not, because I would never put myself in that position,” she answered.

Audibly dumbfounded, interviewer Megan Twohey – one of the two journalists who broke the story of Weinstein’s alleged abuse in 2017 – asked for clarification.

“I have always made choices, from college age on, where I never drank too much, I never went home with someone that I didn’t know; I just never put myself in any vulnerable circumstance. Never,” Rotunno, who identifies herself as the ‘ultimate feminist’, doubled down.

The interview, for The New York Times’ podcast The Daily, made worldwide headlines.

Rotunno, who cross-examined the alleged victims of Weinstein during the trial, was asked why she believes Weinstein's accusers would lie about their encounters with the movie producer.


She answered: "We have created a society of celebrity victim-hood status."

"We have created a society where women don't have to take any responsibility for their actions," she told Twohey.

"We have created a society where if we say 'believe all women,' that means we're not supposed to question anyone at all. So there is absolutely no risk for a woman to come forward and make a claim now. Zero."

She said that if she was a man and engaging in sexual behaviour, she would ask her sexual partners to sign a consent form.

The jury is expected to hear the prosecution's closing argument on Friday in the trial that began more than a month ago. It must then reach unanimous verdicts on each count.

If the jury of seven men and five women find the 67-year-old guilty, he will face life in prison.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Feature image: Getty.

-With AAP.