A month before Harvey Weinstein’s trial in New York is set to start, his lawyer appeared on TV to dismiss his accusers. Weinstein is facing two counts of felony predatory sexual assault, one felony count of criminal sexual act, two felony counts of rape. He could receive a life sentence if convicted and given the maximum sentence. Weinstein pleaded not guilty to charges and says all of his sexual encounters were consensual. In a Nightline interview, Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno blamed his accusers, telling the ABC news program, that in "circumstances where women don’t want to take certain responsibilities for their actions, we infantilize ourselves.”
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 80 women since The New York Times and New Yorker’s bombshell reports in 2017. His upcoming trial, however, is connected to allegations from incidents involving two women, dating back to 2013 and 2006. Rotunno, who was hired by Weinstein in June, told Nightline that she’s “absolutely certain” he hired her because she is a woman, “and I think it was probably a good move.”
When Nightline’s Amy Robach asked Rotunno why she wanted to work with Weinstein, she said that she “is not the moral police” and added that she thinks he has a right to a defense. She also asserted that when the jury looks at the evidence presented against Weinstein, they will find him not guilty. To help Weinstein’s case, Rotunno will present what she characterized as “friendly emails” from his accusers after their assaults. “There is direct communications between Harvey and women, always friendly,” the lawyer said. “Sometimes romantic. That would lead any reasonable person to think that these claims aren’t true.”
When Robach pushed back that there is scientific evidence that victims of assault will communicate with their assaulter to try and normalize the traumatic events, Rotunno said she does not believe those reports and her team will “discredit the fact that there is no real research to prove that.”
Later, Rotunno claimed that she hopes by defending Weinstein she can help women. “You have to know that when you make certain choices there’s a risk when you make those choices,” she said, adding, “If you don’t want to be a victim, don’t go to the hotel room.”
Rotunno said Weinstein has “remorse for the devastation that even these allegations themselves have caused.” When asked whether Weinstein’s remorse stems from having been caught, Rotunno said the former producer wouldn’t have taken steps to work on himself if that were the case. “He went to rehab” for sex addiction, Rotunno said. “He has therapists.”
Following the Nightline interview, 21 of Weinstein’s accusers, including Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, and Rosanna Arquette released a statement via Time’s Up refuting his lawyer’s claims of Weinstein’s innocence. "They, Harvey Weinstein and his advisors, believe he has done nothing wrong and that he deserves to be welcomed back into society. This is far from the truth," the statement says.
In addition, the accusers, who refer to themselves as the “silence breakers,” state the Nightline sitdown "displayed, to a national audience, the same dismissive, manipulative tactics Harvey implemented to silence the voices of so many women for decades and helped create an environment that allowed him to leverage his power to strategically dismantle their reputations and careers."
Last week, Weinstein’s motion to dismiss the criminal case against and consolidate the two indictments were dismissed by a New York judge. Weinstein’s trial is set to begin on January 6, 2020.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).