Feb. 18 (UPI) — Jurors who will decide the fate of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein began deliberating Tuesday after prosecutors complained about an article that was published by his defense attorney.
Judge James Burke gave final instructions to the jury — seven men and five women — and defined each of the five felony counts of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein before sending them to weigh the case, which included two weeks of testimony from 35 witnesses.
The charges stem from two accusers who say they were assaulted by Weinstein years ago.
Former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haleyi said Weinstein assaulted her in 2006 and the other accuser said he raped her in a Manhattan hotel suite in 2013. Jurors also heard testimony from other women who said they were victims.
Defense attorneys countered that the sexual encounters were consensual and done to advance their careers in Hollywood.
If convicted, the 67-year-old Weinstein faces life in prison.
Before final instructions were given Tuesday, prosecutors denounced an opinion piece by defense attorney Donna Rotunno that appeared in Newsweek Sunday, in which she urged jurors to “look past the headlines” and base their verdict “solely on the facts, testimony and evidence.”
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi objected to the article, arguing it was written at the behest of Weinstein and amounted to “jury tampering.”
Burke took no immediate action but cautioned Weinstein against using “the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut.”