Harvey Weinstein Trial: Here Are the Key Players

Weinstein’s criminal trial began on Monday

Last Updated: January 7, 2020 @ 11:48 AM

Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial began on January 6 in New York County’s Supreme Court.

The former film and TV mogul, who pleaded not guilty at his first indictment in August, faces five felony counts: two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree criminal sexual assault, one count of first-degree rape and one count of third-degree rape. The charges stem from accusations by former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and a still-unnamed woman for encounters they say occurred in 2006 and 2013.

The jury selection process began on January 7 and is expected to take at least two weeks. Should that go as scheduled, opening statements and testimony should begin on January 22.

Here are the key players to know in the trial, which is expected to end around March 6.

Judge James Burke

Burke is the presiding judge over the trial. He is a former prosecutor who served as the assistant district attorney for New York County until 2001, when he received his judicial appointment by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He has presided over Weinstein’s case since it first began in May 2018.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon

The Prosecutor

Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the Manhattan assistant district attorney, will be the lead prosecutor for Weinstein’s criminal trial.

After earning a law degree from St. John’s Univestiy in 1988, she joined the DA’s office and has worked there continuously except when she mounted an unsuccessful campaign in 2015 to be Staten Island district attorney.

Illuzzi-Orbon recently earned a conviction in the kidnapping and murder case of Etan Patz, one of the most high-profile missing children’s cases in recent history. She also notably oversaw the abandoned sexual assault investigation into Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund.

Harvey Weinstein, Donna Rotunno, Damon Cheronis

Weinstein’s Team

Chicago-based attorneys Donna Rotunno and Damon Cheronis, as well as New York-based attorney Arthur Aidala will be leading Weinstein’s defense. They are joined by attorneys Diana Fabi-Samson and Barry Kamins.

After a series of legal team shakeups, Rotunno joined Weinstein’s team last summer and brought Cheronis — her frequent collaborator — along with her. Rotunno has specialized in representing men accused in criminal sex cases and has said she doesn’t believe Weinstein is a rapist.

“Everyone deserves a defense. I think for me — why I take these cases — is I do believe we can be effective for him,” Rotunno told the Chicago Sun-Times last July. “The only reason to not take a case like this is all the things around it — it’s not the case, it’s the backlash.”

Rotunno has also said several times that she is not a proponent of the #MeToo movement. “I’m not a woman who has ever subscribed to it,” she told the Wall Street Journal last June. “I believe women are responsible for the choices that they make.”

Aidala has represented a number of other well-known clients before, including rapper 50 Cent and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. He is a former prosecutor who became a Fox News legal analyst for 12 years.

Fabi-Samson is returning to court — and the workforce in general — after having been a prosecutor in the ’90s and taking time off to focus on her family and raising her children.

Kamins is a retired New York Supreme Court judge who now teaches at Brooklyn Law School.

Mimi Haleyi press conference

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

The Prosecution Witnesses

Key to the prosecution’s case is the testimony of the two women whose accusations form the basis of the charges. Mimi Haleyi is a former production assistant for The Weinstein Company who accused Weinstein of raping her in 2006 at his home in SoHo by performing oral sex on her without her consent. (Weinstein has denied any accusations of nonconsensual sex.) She first came forward in 2017 at a press conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred.

Haleyi’s account, along with one other as-yet unnamed woman’s, led to the five felony charges against Weinstein. The second woman accused Weinstein of raping her in a Midtown Manhattan hotel in 2013. In 2018, one of Weinstein’s former attorneys filed a motion seeking to dismiss the charges against the ex-mogul and included dozens of emails with the anonymous woman that appeared, according to the defense, to demonstrate that their “relationship was both consensual and intimate.”

Annabella Sciorra at the MoMA on May 1, 2019

Lars Niki / Getty Images

In addition to these two women, Annabella Sciorra and two other unnamed witnesses are expected to take the stand to testify about “prior bad acts” by Weinstein that the prosecution believes will show a pattern of predation. While Weinstein is not being charged for their accounts, their testimonies can help strengthen the DA’s case against the ex-mogul.

In 2017, Sciorra publicly accused Weinstein of raping her in the 1990s at her home in Manhattan.


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