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Harvey Weinstein found guilty in landmark #MeToo trial

Harvey Weinstein. Source: AAP

Harvey Weinstein has been convicted of sexual assault and rape, but cleared of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges, in a milestone verdict for the #MeToo movement.

Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape by a New York jury on Monday and handcuffed in court, a milestone verdict for the #MeToo movement that inspired women to go public with misconduct allegations against powerful men.

The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree, a measure of vindication for the dozens of women who came out against the one-time all-powerful filmmaker.

However, the 67-year-old Oscar-winner who produced films including "Shakespeare In Love" was found not guilty of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault charges that could have seen him jailed for life.

The disgraced movie mogul faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 29 years in prison.
The disgraced movie mogul faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 29 years in prison.
AAP

The Time's Up foundation, formed in the wake of the Weinstein case, hailed the verdict as marking "a new era of justice."

"Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There's no going back," it said in a statement.

The limited win for #MeToo presents the most high-profile sex assault conviction in the United States since Bill Cosby was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.

The decision was announced in a packed New York courtroom where some 100 people had gathered. The defendant, who attended the trial hunched over a walker, was shielded from view by police officers.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.

But the jury considered charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.

One of the predatory sexual assault charges also included testimony from "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in the winter of 1993-94.

Six women took the stand from the opening of testimony on January 22, to say they had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein.

Weinstein's team subjected the women to ferocious cross-examination, as they argued that his relationships were consensual and transactional.

The prosecution cast Weinstein as a conniving predator who demanded sex in exchange for access to a film universe where he was king, but presented no forensic evidence or witness accounts.

The state's case instead rested on asking the jury to believe the women.

 

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Next stop, LA

Weinstein, who has always said his sexual relations were consensual, was charged with raping former actress Jessica Mann in the DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013.

He was also charged with forcing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his New York apartment in July 2006 while she was on her period.

Ms Mann and Ms Young both testified that Weinstein's genitals appeared deformed, during graphic and at times uncomfortable testimony, as the prosecution showed jurors nude photos of Weinstein to corroborate their accounts.

The charges of predatory sexual assault, a serious sex crime committed against more than one person, were the most serious and carried a sentence of life in prison.

For the jury to convict Weinstein of that they would have had to believe either Ms Mann or Ms Haleyi plus Ms Sciorra.

Ms Sciorra's allegation was too old to be prosecuted as an individual crime but she was included in the indictment to bolster the predatory sexual assault charge.

Ex-model Lauren Young also told the court that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2013 when she was a 22-year-old aspiring actress.

Judge Burke dismissed the jury just after noon Monday, thanking them for their "care" and "attention."

Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein arrives to New York State Supreme Court as the jury is set to deliberate in his sexual assault trial in New York.
Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein arrives to New York State Supreme Court as the jury is set to deliberate in his sexual assault trial in New York.
AAP

Eyes now turn to Los Angeles, where Ms Young's allegations form part of a separate sex crimes investigation against Weinstein being carried out by prosecutors in the California city.

Los Angeles prosecutors accuse him of raping an Italian model in February 2013 and of assaulting Ms Young the following night.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Weinstein as a serial predator who manipulated women with promises to open doors in Hollywood, coaxing them to hotel rooms or private apartments and then overpowering and violently attacking them.

The defence said regret drove the accusers to take consensual incidents and reframe them as crimes.

Seated at the defence table, Weinstein often appeared impassive, though at times he looked intently at his lawyers when they cross-examined his accusers.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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