In the heated mood surrounding the rape trial against film mogul Harvey Weinstein, defense attorney Donna Rotunno keeps a cool head. With her hardness she makes enemies.
New York – The 44-year-old defense attorney for US film producer Harvey Weinstein (67), who has been accused of rape and sexual assault, argues objectively and coolly. Donna Rotunno made her position clear in various interviews: “You don’t like Harvey Weinstein’s behavior. But bad behavior and rape are two completely different things. “
The criminal trial against Weinstein began last week in New York City. Two cases of rape from 2006 and 2013 are being tried. In addition, Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting in more than 80 cases. However, they are not part of the process. Rotunno’s attitude to this: “Just because someone claims something doesn’t make it come true.”
Donna Rotunno holds women responsible for themselves
The lawyer with the “steely eye”, as Rotunno is described in the media, angered mainly female trial observers. As a woman, how can you defend a culprit like Weinstein? The Chicago lawyer, who has defended around 40 cases of men accused of sexual assault over the past 15 years, has a clear answer: “Everyone deserves a defense. I think we can make a difference for Harvey Weinstein. The only reason not to take such a case is all of this. It’s not the case, it’s the headwind. ”
Apparently Rotunno wants to defy that. She also made clear statements about the #me-too debate that the Weinstein case sparked more than two years ago. “I’m not a woman who has ever committed to it,” said the 44-year-old in an interview with the “Wall Street Journal”. “I am convinced that women are responsible for their decisions.”
Rotunno refers to “blurring boundaries” and “gray areas”
With this she sprinkles salt into the wounds of the numerous #metoo activists who stand for the fact that “no” really means “no”. In this logic, even a lack of “yes” puts the man in distress – especially in the realm of sexual power imbalances such as in Hollywood’s film industry. Rotunno, on the other hand, speaks of “blurring boundaries” and “gray areas” between men and women on a sexual level. A memory could be flawed years later. “If you don’t want to be sexually harassed, then you don’t go to a hotel room with someone alone,” says Weinstein’s lawyer. In the same context, she speaks of “blurring boundaries” and “gray areas”.
Attorney Stanley Stallworth once described his former colleague as a “bulldog in the courtroom”. She is extremely well prepared and an aggressive defender who delivers brilliant legal achievements every day. She says of herself that she can cross-examine the witnesses with more severity, precisely because she is a woman: “I can get away with much more than a male defense attorney.” No matter how good a lawyer, he could be, but as soon as he did treat the witness with the same severity, he is immediately interpreted as harassment, while no one would blink an eyelid with her.
The defense wanted to delay the process
At the start of the trial, Manhattan Deputy Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Rotunno were already fighting a sharp battle of words. Illuzzi-Orbon accused Rotunno of making “degrading statements” about the prosecution witnesses. “Enough damage has already been done to these witnesses,” said Illuzzi-Orbon. In an interview with CNN, Rotunno said about Annabella Sciorra that she “will make an excellent witness because she is an actress”.
Sciorra claims that she was raped by Weinstein around 26 years ago. This incident is now statute-barred, and the actress can therefore not sue her alleged tormentor herself, but she is called as a witness. Rotunno’s statement was below the belt, said lawyer Gloria Allred later. She represents both Sciorra and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, one of the two plaintiffs, in the Weinstein lawsuit. She accuses Weinstein of forcing her to have oral sex in his Soho apartment in 2006.
The Weinstein case and the #me-too debate
The Weinstein case triggered the #me-too movement in 2017, within which women resist being degraded to sex objects. In 2018 there were 19 million tweets with the world-famous hashtag. The story of the allegations against Weinstein began long before that. His alleged sexual assault is said to have been an open secret in Hollywood.
As early as 1998, actress Gwyneth Paltrow (47) is said to have said about Weinstein: “He’s going to force you to do one or two things.” Singer Courtney Love (55) should also respond in 2005 to the question of what she advises young actors in Hollywood have: “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party at the ‘Four Seasons’, do not go.” The “New York Times” and the “New Yorker” finally reported in 2017 despite massive threats of lawsuits on the allegations and got the case rolling .
The articles that were later awarded the Pulitzer Prize were followed by a wave of new revelations. Dozens of women, including well-known actresses such as Angelina Jolie (44) or Salma Hayek (53), accused the film producer. Weinstein admitted mistakes but denied criminal acts. The increasing number of accusations result in a pattern: The powerful man is said to have taken advantage of his position and promised young women jobs or great careers in order to make them compliant.