Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer has said the women who accused the convicted sex offender of assault were “guilty of a lot of things” including using him by sending him affectionate messages.
Donna Rotunno also said the case showed that men “have no power anymore” in sexual assault cases and women have too much.
Weinstein, the former king of Hollywood, is on the brink of finding out how long he will spend in prison after being found guilty of two charges at his sexual assault trial.
The Hollywood producer was found guilty of a criminal sex act for assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in 2006 and third-degree rape of Jessica Mann in 2013 – and could spend more than 25 years locked up for the offences.
His rape and sexual assault convictions were a landmark moment in the #MeToo movement, as at least 80 women had accused him of sexual misconduct going back decades.
But Ms Rotunno – who has a reputation as legal Rottweiler – has remained unflinchingly loyal to Weinstein.
She was accused during the trial of taunting witnesses, of bringing them to tears and inducing panic attacks.
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Now, she has said the women who testified against Weinstein were using him.
“They were guilty of making Harvey Weinstein do things, making him believe that they wanted to be with him, that they wanted to spend time with him,” she said.
“And then get up on a witness stand and call him disgusting – sending him letters saying ‘miss you big guy,’ sending letters saying ‘love you lots’. I mean how is that ok? How are we as a society saying men all bad, women all good when we look at that evidence. How do we reconcile that?”
When Sky News’ US correspondent Amanda Walker asked if that behaviour warranted sexual assault, Ms Rotunno said she was “talking about two different things”.
“You’re asking me if the women were guilty – I’m telling you that they were guilty of certain things. No behaviour warrants sexual assault, none,” she said.
But Ms Rotunno has previously said that she has never been sexually assaulted because she would never put herself in that situation.
Asked if she was implying there is a choice in being sexually assaulted, she said she was indicating that there is “choice in circumstances in which we put ourselves”.
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Whatever happens at Weinstein’s sentencing, Ms Rotunno said she will be sad for her client who she described as “wickedly intelligent”.
“You know, the people who criticised me, I don’t really think they think about the big picture and I don’t understand what they were hoping for,” she said.
“Were they hoping that we would let people walk into a courtroom, tell their stories and not be asked any questions? It doesn’t make any sense, that’s not how a court procedure works.”
Weinstein’s convictions happened with no forensic evidence and instead came down to the jurors accepting the testimony of his accusers.
Ms Rotunno did not welcome the fact that this marked the beginning of a shift in the way sex assault cases are tried.
“If this becomes a pattern or a model for the way juries decide cases, I think every single person who finds themselves charged with a crime should be concerned,” she said.
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“Because if we are finding people guilty, when there are mountains of doubt and very little evidence – if any at all – I think we need to question what the justice system looks like.”
Walker suggested the idea of women coming to police with test tubes of evidence seemed unrealistic, to which Ms Rotunno said “that’s not true”.
“The question is, do you have to believe someone just because they make a statement? If you’re looking at it through a moral lens, everyone’s guilty, but that’s not what we do in a criminal justice system, that’s not how it works,” Ms Rotunno said.
Ms Rotunno went on to say that she does not think men have any power anymore because “a woman can say anything she wants and they’re going to be believed”.
“That takes away every ounce of power that a man has. The pendulum is swinging so far in another direction that I think that it’s dangerous and scary and nobody’s going to change my mind about that.”
Ahead of his sentencing, Weinstein’s defence team, have asked that he be shown mercy for his already “historic fall from grace”.