“They are creating a universe in which they’re stripping adult women of common sense, autonomy, and responsibility,” Donna Rotunno, one of Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorneys, said during the closing arguments of her client’s criminal trial. She was taking aim, most directly, at the case’s prosecution. But she was also suggesting, in the cosmic sweep of her accusation, a broader indictment: of the #MeToo movement, and of the movement’s insistence that the blame for sexual violence lies not with its victims, but with its perpetrators.
The lawyer’s argument was flawed in many ways—chief among them, it failed, apparently, to persuade its intended audience. Yesterday, the jury in People of the State of New York v. Harvey Weinstein announced its verdict, after nearly 30 hours of deliberation: Weinstein is guilty, it concluded, on two of the five charges that were brought against him. The “alleged rapist” is now the “convicted rapist.” He faces up to 29 years in prison. That is expressly because, not in spite, of the “common sense, autonomy, and responsibility” demonstrated by the women who spoke during the trial.
For many observers—people who have lived through the Anita Hill testimony and the Christine Blasey Ford testimony and the election of Donald Trump—the Weinstein verdict came as a shock. “This was such a narrow legal hallway to walk down, and many of us braced ourselves for a not-guilty verdict,” Lauren Sivan, a journalist who has said that Weinstein masturbated in front of her, explained during a call with reporters yesterday. For others, the verdict was a symbol. “This is a new day,” Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, who declined to prosecute Weinstein in 2015, told reporters just after the verdict was announced. Trump shared his own—deeply fraught—reactions to the verdict during a press conference today: “I think that, from the standpoint of women, I think it was a, uh, great thing. I think it was a, uh, it was a great victory.”