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Prosecutors rest case in Harvey Weinstein rape trial, defence to call witnesses


Prosecutors in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial rested their case Thursday after more than two weeks of testimony punctuated by harrowing accounts from six women, including some who said he ignored pleas of “no, no, no” and justified his behaviour as the cost of getting ahead in Hollywood.

Now Weinstein’s lawyers will start calling witnesses of their own as the landmark celebrity trial moves one step closer to a verdict. They haven’t said whether Weinstein himself will testify. Doing so could bring big risks because prosecutors would be able to grill him about each of the allegations that jurors have already heard about in vivid detail.

Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno immediately asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that testimony from the woman he is charged with raping “does not in any way show a forcible act by Mr. Weinstein.” The judge rejected the request.

Among the witnesses the defence is expected to call is a psychologist who specializes in human memory. The defence is looking to raise doubts about the women’s recollections of encounters that in some cases are more than a decade or two old.

The criminal charges at the trial in New York City are based on two allegations: that Weinstein raped a woman in March 2013 and that he forced oral sex on another woman in 2006.

The allegations against Weinstein helped fuel the #MeToo movement. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Weinstein, 67, maintains that any sexual encounters were consensual but taking the witness to say so could be risky.

“I tell my clients once you take the stand you have lost your shield which is me, and you are on your own,” said defence lawyer Brian McMonagle, who helped secure a mistrial in Bill Cosby’s first sexual assault trial in 2017. Cosby was later convicted.

“In my experience as a prosecutor and defence attorney, it is rare to see a client take the stand,” he said. “The problem is that some jurors do hold that against you.”

Prosecutors ended their case after the last of the other accusers allowed to testify finished telling jurors about about an encounter with the disgraced movie mogul in 2013.

Lauren Marie Young, a model from suburban Philadelphia, testified that Weinstein invited her to his Beverly Hills hotel room, lured her to the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, pulled down her dress and groped her breast. Her allegation is part of a criminal case that was filed against Weinstein in California just as this trial was getting underway.

Additional women, including Young, have been allowed to testify in the New York case as prosecutors attempt to show there was a practised method to Weinstein’s attacks, including inviting women to his hotel room to discuss business, then disrobing and demanding sexual favours.

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