NEW YORK – Harvey Weinstein, the powerhouse film producer whose downfall over sexual misconduct ignited a global movement, was found guilty of two felony sex crimes after a trial in which six women testified that he had sexually assaulted them.
The jury found Weinstein guilty of rape and criminal sexual act but acquitted him of three other counts, including the two most serious charges against him — that he is a sexual predator.
Weinstein sat motionless and displayed little emotion as the verdict was read. He appeared stunned as he was handcuffed and led out of court, limping between two court officers on his way to jail to await sentencing. He faces a possible sentence of between five and 25 years.
The verdict offered a measure of justice to the dozens of women who had come forward with similar allegations against Weinstein. For many, the trial was a watershed moment for the MeToo movement and a crucial test in the effort to hold influential men accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.
Complaints about Weinstein, an Oscar-winning producer of films including "Shakespeare in Love," had opened the floodgates in late 2017, as hundreds of thousands of women aired their own stories of harassment. Weinstein quickly became a symbol not just of the casting couch culture in Hollywood but also of the abuse women had endured for hundreds of years.
The criminal charges brought in Manhattan against Weinstein, 67, rested narrowly on the complaints of two women: Miriam Haley, a production assistant who said he had forced oral sex on her in 2006, and Jessica Mann, a former actress who alleged he had raped her at a hotel in 2013.
Jurors also had to consider the testimony of actress Annabella Sciorra, who claimed Weinstein had raped her in the early 1990s, in deciding whether he was a sexual predator. Three other women were allowed to give their accounts of alleged assaults to establish a pattern of behavior, but Weinstein was not charged in those incidents.
But the jury found him not guilty on two counts of predatory sexual assault, suggesting they had doubts about Sciorra's allegation.
After the jury foreman delivered the verdict, Justice James Burke thanked the jurors for their "care and concentration" before they left the courtroom. As they filed out, Juror No. 6 stared at Weinstein. Burke immediately sent Weinstein to jail to await sentencing March 11, denying his request to be sent home for medical reasons.
The case, heard in state Supreme Court, was an unusually risky one for Manhattan prosecutors, who had little or no physical or forensic evidence to support the women's allegations. The trial turned into a battle over the women's credibility.
Donna Rotunno, the lead defense lawyer, tried to put the MeToo movement on trial, arguing that public outrage over Weinstein's behavior had stripped him of a career and branded him as a rapist without due process. He was, she said, "a target of a cause and of a movement."
Prosecutors portrayed Weinstein as a calculated predator who kept his victims close after his attacks to control them, using his power over their futures in the film industry to silence them.
"The power and balance he deviously exploited was not just physical; it was also professional and profoundly psychological," one of the prosecutors, Meghan Hast, said in her opening statement.
But defense lawyers said the women had sex with Weinstein willingly to further their careers. Only years later, they said, after he had been accused of sexual harassment in the New York Times and the New Yorker, did the women say their encounters with him were not consensual.
The defense presented evidence that Haley and Mann not only had friendly communications with Weinstein after the alleged attacks but also had consensual sex with him.
But after deliberating for five days the jury of seven men and five women determined Weinstein had broken the law.
The verdict was a victory for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., whose legacy turned on the outcome of the case. He had come under heavy political pressure to bring charges against Weinstein after he had declined to prosecute him in 2015, after allegations the producer had groped an Italian model during a business meeting.
That decision came back to haunt Vance in late 2017 when dozens of women came forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct; some of the allegations dated back decades. Once considered an ally by feminists, Vance became the target of protests, even as jurors began to hear testimony against Weinstein last month.
After the verdict, he said in the hallway outside the courtroom that the women who had testified against Weinstein had "changed the course of history in the fight against sexual violence."
"Harvey Weinstein is a vicious sexual predator" who has "used his power to trick, assault and humiliate his victims," Vance said. "To the survivors of Harvey Weinstein, I owe, and we all owe, an immense debt to you."