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US News She’s Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer, and She Thinks #MeToo Is ‘Dangerous’

16:00  14 january  2020
16:00  14 january  2020 Source:   msn.com

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I think that ’ s dangerous .” By 2003, she had gone into private practice with a defense lawyer , and two years later, at age 29, she started her own firm. “ She decided to do something a lot of women don’t do,” said David A. Erickson, a retired judge who had once been her supervisor in the state’ s attorney

Harvey Weinstein has been “railroaded” by the # MeToo movement, one of the new lawyers on his sexual-assault case said Thursday morning after a court proceeding on yet another shakeup of the producer’ s She said that movements “allow emotion to take over and ignore the facts and evidence.”

Harvey Weinstein et al. posing for the camera: Harvey Weinstein, second from right, leaving court in Manhattan last week with his lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, who has steadily built a career defending men accused of sex crimes. © Mary Altaffer/Associated Press Harvey Weinstein, second from right, leaving court in Manhattan last week with his lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, who has steadily built a career defending men accused of sex crimes.

It was about an hour into Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial when his lead defense lawyer came under attack. The prosecutor called a recent media blitz intended to discredit Mr. Weinstein’s accusers “an abomination” and asked the judge to put an end to it with a gag order.

But the defense lawyer, Donna Rotunno, lashed back at the prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi.

“Ms. Illuzzi stands in this courtroom and calls my client a predator and then has the nerve to say I shouldn’t go out and discuss this case,” Ms. Rotunno said. “She wants everyone out there to convict Mr. Weinstein before one piece of evidence comes before this court.”

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Harvey Weinstein CBE (/ˈwaɪnstiːn/; born March 19, 1952) is an American former film producer. He and his brother Bob Weinstein co-founded the entertainment company Miramax

The incidents described were in her office when she was alone with Harvey Weinstein , and in her Former colleagues and collaborators of Weinstein told reporters that these activities were enabled by employees, associates and agents who set up these meetings, as well as lawyers and publicists who

Long before an avalanche of allegations against Mr. Weinstein set off a global reckoning over sexual harassment, Ms. Rotunno was steadily building a career as a criminal lawyer in Chicago with an unusual specialty: defending men accused of sex crimes.

As the #MeToo movement grew, she embraced the role of contrarian, arguing that a public rush to condemn men accused of sexual misconduct and assault was shredding reputations and careers without due process. Even if the movement had helped the feminist cause, she said, it came at too high a price.

Donna Rotunno, Harvey Weinstein's new defense attorney, talks to reporters following Weinstein's appearance in criminal court on sexual assault charges. © Getty Donna Rotunno, Harvey Weinstein's new defense attorney, talks to reporters following Weinstein's appearance in criminal court on sexual assault charges.

“If we have 500 positives that come from a movement, but the one negative is that it strips you of your right to due process and a fair trial, and the presumption of innocence, then to me, not one of those things can outweigh the one bad,” she said in an interview. “We can’t have movements that strip us of our fundamental rights.”

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But Mr. Weinstein ’ s lawyer , Benjamin Brafman, has argued that the entire indictment was contaminated because prosecutors failed to show the grand jury evidence favorable to his client. “ Harvey Weinstein needs to be held accountable,” she said. “He can’t get away with it again.”

Mr. Weinstein, who made no secret of wanting to cast a woman as his courtroom champion, asked Ms. Rotunno to lead his defense team in May, after parting ways with two sets of lawyers led by men.

Since then, Ms. Rotunno has emerged as a paradoxical and polemical figure, who has decided to defend a man reviled by many women as the embodiment of chauvinism and sexual misconduct.

That has earned her the scorn of some women’s rights advocates, who have suggested she may be motivated as much by the recognition and future work the case will bring her as by her legal principles.

“Her willingness to claim that #MeToo has gone too far is attached to a steady stream of big paychecks, but is not supported by the facts,” said Jane Manning, an advocate for rape victims and a former New York City sex crimes prosecutor.

While the movement has encouraged women to speak up about sexual assault and has highlighted the failures of law enforcement to hold some men responsible for sexual crimes, in Ms. Rotunno’s opinion, the cultural pendulum has swung too far. Many of her clients are considered guilty until proven innocent, she said.

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Judd claimed Weinstein invited her to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a breakfast business meeting, but "I don’t think he hated anything more than the word 'no,'" she continued. "The range of his Weinstein ' s lawyers vehemently denied Thurman' s recollection of events. In a statement to ET

Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments “The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and

a woman standing in front of a window: “Having voluntary sex with someone even if it is a begrudging act is not a crime after the fact,” Ms. Rotunno said. © John Taggart for The New York Times “Having voluntary sex with someone even if it is a begrudging act is not a crime after the fact,” Ms. Rotunno said. While women should never be forced to do things they do not want to do, she said, she thinks they also must bear responsibility for their decisions.

“You can’t just have it both ways and say, ‘I should be able to do whatever I want without consequences. I should put myself in any situation I want and play victim,’” Ms. Rotunno said. “Having voluntary sex with someone even if it is a begrudging act is not a crime after the fact.”

She added: “What happens with #BelieveAllWomen is that we’re just supposed to believe you without any pushback, or questioning, or cross-examination. I think that’s dangerous.”

Ms. Rotunno grew up in the Chicago suburbs, the granddaughter of a police officer and the daughter of a businessman in the grocery industry and a teacher.

Even as a child, Ms. Rotunno became fascinated with practicing law while watching the television series “The Paper Chase,” which was about a first-year Harvard Law School student.

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Harvey Weinstein arrives with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman for a court hearing on Dec. “This is why my case didn’t go to trial — my instinct was my lawyers had been bought off,” she added. “I thought Harvey would get to them behind the scenes and I wouldn’t have fair representation.”

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She went to a local Catholic college, graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, then landed a job as a clerk with the Cook County state’s attorney office in 1997. Three years later, she became an assistant state’s attorney in Illinois, working on domestic violence cases and felony crimes.

a group of people posing for the camera: Ms. Rotunno leaving court with her client Demarco Whitley, center, and David Gaeger, also a lawyer. She has lost one sex-crimes case at trial: Mr. Whitley’s. © Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald Ms. Rotunno leaving court with her client Demarco Whitley, center, and David Gaeger, also a lawyer. She has lost one sex-crimes case at trial: Mr. Whitley’s. By 2003, she had gone into private practice with a defense lawyer, and two years later, at age 29, she started her own firm.

“She decided to do something a lot of women don’t do,” said David A. Erickson, a retired judge who had once been her supervisor in the state’s attorney office. “Strike out on her own.”

In Chicago, she became known for her personal style and for winning criminal trials and specializing in sex crimes.

“She had a great mastery of the facts and the law,” said Stanley Stallworth, a Chicago lawyer whom Ms. Rotunno successfully defended against a sexual assault charge. “She’s a bulldog in the courtroom.”

Entering court on a typical morning last August, Ms. Rotunno, who said she believes that “jurors appreciate people taking pride in how you dress,” wore a black geometric-patterned Salvatore Ferragamo skirt and blouse with a large leather handbag slung over her left arm. Her Jimmy Choo pumps clicked against the floor. Around her neck, a delicate gold chain read: “Not Guilty.”

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Harvey Weinstein with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman on June 5. "He' s a complex man who has already suffered a great deal of public humiliation, and I'm "I think she doesn't know what she is talking about as a general proposition," he said. But Brafman blamed the tidal wave of allegations against his

Film producer Harvey Weinstein accompanied by his attorney Donna Rotunno. © Reuters Film producer Harvey Weinstein accompanied by his attorney Donna Rotunno. Ms. Rotunno, who describes herself as “a reasonable-minded independent,” said she finds it disheartening that the #MeToo movement has affected routine exchanges between men and women.

“It’s sad,” she said, “that men have to worry about being complimentary and pleasant to women.”

When it comes to sex crimes cases, Ms. Rotunno has lost only once at trial. She keeps a courtroom sketch from that case taped to a wall in her office.

Her client Demarco Whitley, then 19, a former high school football player, was convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Ms. Rotunno believes the “real perpetrator” was Mr. Whitley’s cousin, who was also accused of participating in the attack but who died in a car accident before trial. Her client, she said, was “the follower.”

a group of people standing in front of a building: Ms. Rotunno's work on the Weinstein case has earned her the scorn of some women’s rights advocates. © John Taggart for The New York Times Ms. Rotunno's work on the Weinstein case has earned her the scorn of some women’s rights advocates. She put the teenage girl through a brutal cross-examination, because “her story was not great.” Afterward, she asked the prosecutor to pass a message on to the girl: “Tell her I had a job to do. I don’t want this to define what happens to her.”

That willingness to be tough on accusers has served her well in other cases. In 2014, for instance, she had won an acquittal for Elhadji “Haj” Gueye, a renowned fashion designer who had been charged with raping a woman in a condominium building where they both lived. The jury found reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed after Ms. Rotunno had argued the woman set Mr. Gueye up to extort $50,000.

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Defense lawyers and prosecutors who know her say Ms. Rotunno is skilled at scouring evidence and exposing inconsistencies in testimony. “When she walks into a courtroom, she will know what is said on every piece of paper she was given,” said Maria McCarthy, a Cook County prosecutor who has faced Ms. Rotunno in court.

Her prowess in cross-examination was evident at a recent Chicago hearing when she gently yet pointedly questioned a young girl who said she had been spanked and pushed by her father.

Donna Rotunno. © Getty Donna Rotunno. Ms. Rotunno brought out that the girl’s account contradicted her earlier statement. Then Ms. Rotunno argued forcefully that the girl’s mother had a vendetta against the father and was using the child as a pawn. A judge dismissed the case.

Ms. Rotunno’s skill at undermining accusers on the witness stand will be put to the test in the Weinstein trial. The Manhattan district attorney’s office plans to call six women to testify about their allegations that Mr. Weinstein sexually assaulted them, though many of those incidents are too old to be charged as separate crimes.

The prosecution’s case hinges almost entirely on the jury believing the women’s accounts, since there is little or no physical evidence. Mr. Weinstein is charged with raping one woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcing oral sex on a second woman in his apartment in 2006. The other women will be called to show a pattern of behavior.

As a woman, Ms. Rotunno anticipates that she can take a harder line against Mr. Weinstein’s accusers without looking like a bully. Jurors, she said, will simply see two women having a conversation.

Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represents two of Mr. Weinstein’s accusers, disagreed. “A bully is a bully, regardless of their gender,” Ms. Allred said. “I don’t believe it is appropriate to go after a victim on the stand with venom.”

She added, “If this is her strategy, she may find that a New York jury is turned off by that tactic.”

Prosecutors have signaled they will paint Mr. Weinstein to be a powerful movie producer who forced and manipulated women into having sex with him.

Ms. Rotunno said her job would be to convince the jury not only that the sexual encounters were consensual, but that the women were also manipulating Mr. Weinstein. She pointed out that both women maintained relationships with Mr. Weinstein after the alleged assaults.

“Yes, he’s a powerful guy,” she said. “But I think that because he’s a powerful guy, they would use him and use him and use him for anything they could.”

Kerry Kasper contributed reporting from Chicago.

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