“Power. Manipulation. Abuse.” Those three words appeared on one of the first slides that Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi showed the jury on Friday morning as she began her summation in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial in New York. At times speaking softly and at times allowing her words to boom in the filled courtroom, Illuzzi began an impassioned argument that the six women who testified in the weeks-long trial were the victims of a Hollywood titan who preyed upon young women seeking entry or respect in the industry he controlled.
“The defendant was the master of the universe and the witnesses were merely ants that he could step on without consequence,” Illuzzi said. “He also underestimated them. He made sure he had contact with the people he was worried about … to make sure that one day, they wouldn’t walk out from the shadows and call him exactly what he was: an abusive rapist. He was wrong.”
Illuzzi then began weaving together the accounts of each woman — beginning with Annabella Sciorra — to demonstrate perceived patterns of behavior, using images and emails previously submitted into evidence to visualize her argument. At one point, Illuzzi displayed emails that showed Sciorra was on Weinstein’s “red flag list” of people to investigate in 2017 — before she went public with her story — and pointed out that none of the other women who testified in this trial were. And that’s because, Illuzzi argued, they were Weinstein’s “complete disposals.”
“These other women,” Illuzzi said, motioning her arms swiftly away from her body like she was tossing something away, “they were never in his world. They were never gonna be in his world. They’re never going to be strong enough, bold enough, or brave enough. … But Annabella, someone might believe her.”
She then displayed a slide that included a large image of Sciorra alongside smaller photos of Miriam Haley, Jessica Mann, Dawn Dunning, Tarale Wulff, and Lauren Young.
“You see all these women? All of these women on one screen. It’s as if they’re all here together. When you consider why they didn’t tell [anyone], why they had further contact with him, why they continued to speak nicely to him, remember that none of these women, when what was happening to them was happening, knew about each other. That’s the whole mark of a predator. Isolate. Isolate. Isolate them and make them feel like they’re the only ones,” Illuzzi said.
Illuzzi’s summation comes a day after Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s lead attorneys, gave her own nearly five-hour closing argument before the jury. Rotunno accused the prosecution of being producers of their own project, creating a “universe” where women were not responsible for their own actions and where the complaining witnesses were actually the ones trying to manipulate and benefit from Weinstein’s power. Rotunno also exhaustively went through rebuttals to each woman’s accusations, showing emails and testimony that the defense believes proves the encounters with Weinstein were consensual.
Jury deliberations begin next Tuesday, after the Presidents Day holiday. The panel must decide upon the five charges against Weinstein: two counts of predatory sexual assault, and one count each for a first-degree criminal sexual act and first- and third-degree rape. If convicted of the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault, Weinstein could face life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denied accusations of nonconsensual sex.