by Patricia G. Barnes
- Note: Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on 2/24/20 of rape and criminal sexual acts after a trial in which six women testified that he had sexually assaulted them. He was acquitted on three other counts, including the two most serious charges against him — that he is a sexual predator.
Ah, the irony.
Donna Rotunno, a lead attorney for disgraced movie mogul and alleged sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, recently penned an editorial for Newsweek Magazine bemoaning the state of the U.S. Justice system.
“The United States justice system has proven fair and effective throughout the history of our nation. But not always.”
Rotunno goes on to implore jurors in the Weinstein trial to do what they know is right, which is code for acquitting Weinstein.
The Weinstein jury told the judge Friday that they are unable to reach a verdict on the two predatory sexual assault counts but are unanimous on the other three counts. The judge told them to keep deliberating.
Contrary to Rotunno, the real problem with America’s justice system is not how it treats multimillionaires who can afford a team of pit bull advocates and jury consultants, but how it treats women and girls who are victims of sexual assault.
The system repeatedly fails to acknowledge that sexual assault is a serious injury suffered by one out of every five women. More than a third of the victims are raped before the age of 18. The vast majority suffer post-traumatic stress.
The system works just fine for the Weinstein’s of this world.
For the system to work for Weinstein’s victims, however, jurors must divest themselves of stereotypes about women and class prejudice.
If a woman is naïve, poor and desperate for success, she isn’t necessarily lying about being assaulted in a hotel room by the most power producer in the world.
If a woman isn’t the equivalent of the Virgin Mary, she does not forfeit her right to be free from sexually assault.
The #MeToo movement has unleashed a tsunami of pent up anger and frustration by women who have suffered serious physical and psychological injury over the years at the hands of powerful men like Weinstein.
Weinstein repeatedly bought his way out of trouble while fraternizing with the likes of former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. Media reports show he used his resources to intimidate victims and inquisitive members of the press and was aided and abetted by assistants, producers, fixers, executives, publicists and lawyers. The Weinstein company board of directors knew of at least three confidential settlements but there was no sanction.
Some 90 women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse.
“For the process to work as intended and to operate in good faith, jurors must accept the responsibility of not just considering the facts, testimony and evidence, but cutting through the noise of a media and public intent on injecting their narratives into the courtroom, twisting those facts to fit their point of view.”
Again, the irony.
It is Rotunno who is brazenly using the media to influence the jury.
The presiding judge in the Weinstein trial scolded Rotunno for attempting to influence jurors via the Newsweek editorial and forbade the Weinstein defense team from speaking with the media until after the trial is over.
Of course, the horse has long escaped the barn.
The Guardian reports that Rotunno gave an interview that will be aired Sunday on 60 Minutes Australia, in which she states: “Is Harvey guilty of committing sins? Sure, but that doesn’t make you a criminal … A sin is cheating on your wife.”