A cold and calculating sexual predator

Harvey Weinstein found guilty.

The jury of seven men and five women at the New York supreme court took five days to reach their verdict. They found the defendant guilty of a criminal sex act in the first degree for forcing oral sex on the former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006.

The count carries a minimum prison sentence of five years and a maximum of up to 25 years.

The jury also convicted Weinstein of rape in the third degree. This relates to him raping a woman the Guardian is not naming, as her wishes for identification are not clear, in a New York hotel in 2013.

Weinstein was acquitted of three further charges, including the two most serious counts of predatory sexual assault which carried a possible life sentence and an alternative count of rape in the first degree.

Weird about the predatory part because as everyone is saying, what could be more predatory than Harvey Weinstein? But then, that’s the overall view we get from reading the papers, while the specific case is another matter.

He’s now in jail waiting to be sentenced.

The conviction marks the final comeuppance for a towering figure who wielded his power in the movie industry – as well as his commanding physical presence – over vulnerable young women seeking his help.

He should have decided he was trans. “My commanding physical presence is not a rape-assistant but a burden, a torment, a prison from which I have at last escaped.”

The details of the prosecution are very interesting.

The guilty verdict could also have a profound impact on the way sex crimes are prosecuted. The New York district attorney’s office took an enormous gamble in how they set up the trial.

Prosecutors chose as main accusers two women, both of whom continued to have close – and at times sexual – contact with Weinstein after they were attacked. In the past, prosecutors have almost always balked at such cases where coerced and consensual sex exists side-by-side, considering them too messy to secure guilty verdicts.

The fact that the tactic succeeded with the jury is a sign of the shifting sands of #MeToo. It suggests that prosecutors might have far more leeway in future to take on cases where victims continue to be in the thrall of their attackers after sexual assaults – a scenario which sex crimes experts say is all too common and yet up til now has been almost entirely neglected by the criminal courts.

It’s almost as if women matter.

Such a striking victory can be credited to the two intrepid prosecutors, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Meghan Hast, who meticulously laid out the defendant’s culpability. They did so against the headwinds generated by Weinstein’s lawyers led by the Chicago-based sex crimes defender Donna Rotunno who was so aggressive towards witnesses that she induced in one of the two main accusers a fully fledged panic attack.

There, spotted in the wild – one of the reasons rape is so seldom prosecuted and even more seldom convicted.

The prosecutors called 27 witnesses over 12 days, building up a profile of the movie producer as a cold and calculating sexual predator that ultimately overwhelmed defense arguments. They emphasized the vast gulf in power – and girth – between Weinstein and his victims.

He was a “famous and powerful Hollywood producer living a lavish lifestyle that most of us will never know”, Hast said, pointing out that he counted among his friends not only the elite of Hollywood but also world leaders like Bill Clinton. By contrast, the unnamed rape victim was brought up on a Washington state dairy farm.

It’s bizarre, when you think about it – he’s already got all kinds of power, and surely more sexual opportunity than he could use up, so what’s the point? It must be the predation itself that’s the point – i.e. the sadism.

But I’d better be careful, I wouldn’t want to kink-shame him.

Weinstein, 67, meticulously planned his attacks, carefully selecting his victims for their vulnerability and neediness. He set them loyalty tests that if they passed would then lead onto the next stage of his predatory grooming.

Which, being interpreted, means: he is one sick motherfucker.

I’m kink-shaming; sue me.

The rape victim described the defendant as a Jekyll and Hyde. “If he heard the word ‘no’, it was like a trigger for him,” she said.

As the evidence unfolded in courtroom 99, through the eerily similar accounts of all six women, it became clear that sex for Weinstein had nothing to do with seduction, romance and affection, let alone intimacy or love. As the rape victim testified, her attacker had to use a needle to inject himself in the penis with an erectile dysfunction medicine before he could carry out the assault.

It didn’t even have to do with sex in the ordinary sense, unless you consider sex to be inextricably entwined with sadism, which clearly some people do.

Harvey Weinstein will be the stuff of nightmares for a generation.

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