Harvey Weinstein’s defense team is planning to show the jury at his New York rape trial a PowerPoint presentation that will allude to “dozens of emails” between the key women in the case and the defendant which they contend will prove consensual sexual relations.
In the last day of legal wrangling before the trial proper kicks off with opening statements on Wednesday, the disgraced media mogul’s lawyers openly clashed with prosecution lawyers. The lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, objected to the PowerPoint on grounds its content would not be admissible in court.
But Damon Cheronis, one of three main lawyers defending Weinstein, said the material would be relevant and admissible as it would rebut allegations of forced sex from the women who will be testifying.
“We are in possession of dozens and dozens and dozens of emails between Harvey Weinstein and individuals who are going to come to this courtroom and claim he sexually assaulted them. They include statements by the complaining witnesses in this case who are going to say they were involved in relationships with Mr Weinstein based on fear, which we will counter with their own words,” he said.
Cheronis said that among the emails were some in which women “bragged” about sexual relations with the defendant that they now alleged amounted to sexual assault. He said one of the women had offered Weinstein her phone number after the alleged attack, while a different woman had offered to introduce him to her mother also after the alleged crime took place.
“I can understand why [prosecutors] don’t want that evidence to come in, because it is devastating,” Cheronis said.
Illuzzi-Orban shot back: “I can tell you what he said just here is blatantly inaccurate”.
The judge in the case, James Burke of the New York supreme court, ruled that the PowerPoint would be admissible in opening statements so long as it did not show photographic images of the emails themselves.
Weinstein faces a total of five counts. They include two counts of rape relating to a woman who alleges that he cornered her in a midtown Manhattan hotel room in March 2013 and raped her; and one count of a criminal sex act pertaining to a woman who alleges he forced her to have oral sexual contact in his New York apartment in 2006.
In addition to the two main female witnesses, a further four women are expected to testify. They will speak to the two remaining charges of “predatory sexual assault” that carry the most severe punishment of up to life imprisonment.
The four women will be called by prosecutors to try and convince the jury that Weinstein engaged in a pattern of criminal coercive behavior over many years.
On Wednesday the trial proper will begin after two weeks of grueling jury selection that saw the rival legal teams frequently cross swords. The final jury – whittled down from a pool of more than 600 people – consists of seven men and five women.
The evidence stage of the trial will begin with Burke issuing directives to the jury, followed by prosecution and then defense opening statements. Should things go smoothly, the first woman to testify might take the witness stand by end of play Wednesday.
The heated exchange over the PowerPoint gave a telling glimpse into how Weinstein will frame his defense. The former film producer has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and has denied all the claims of non-consensual sexual misconduct that have now been raised by 105 women.
Earlier this month, New York magazine was sent by publicists working for Weinstein a 57-page PowerPoint presentation titled The Proper Narrative for Addressing the Harvey Weinstein Case. It contained opposition research against several of the film mogul’s female accusers, suggesting that their allegations of sexual assault were “revisionist”.
One section of the presentation was headlined 5 Illustrations Why HW’s Accusers are not Credible.