Weinstein’s Conviction Is A Watershed Moment In Criminal Law

  • Mar 11 2020

Harvey Weinstein faces 29 years in prison after being convicted of rape. His case is being celebrated as a win for the #metoo movement, and marks a shift in the way rape and other sexual abuse cases may be prosecuted. It is a case all sex crimes defense attorneys should take a closer look at. 

More Than Just A Big Name 

The women who came forward and accused Weinstein of various sexual crimes should be applauded for their bravery. They took on one of the most important people in their industry, someone who could very easily make sure they never got another acting job again, and they won. Justice prevailed. The Weinstein case is notable for this reason alone, but there are other important things going on in this case that deserve a closer look. 

“Tricky” Cases 

Rape is rape, and it is always wrong. However, some prosecutors have been hesitant to prosecute cases where someone is accused of rape, but then goes on to have additional consensual sexual encounters with the supposed victim. The Weinstein case breaks that tradition in a dramatic fashion. 

The two women whose accusations led to Weinstein’s conviction — Jessica Mann and Mimi Haley — both engaged in consensual sex with the movie mogul after he allegedly assaulted them. 

It is also unfortunately true that prosecutors will rarely push for a rape conviction unless there is evidence that physical force was used. In the Weinstein case, physical force was not an issue. Instead, the case focused on the power Weinstein wielded in the entertainment industry. Saying no to him could end your career. 

This leads to another interesting point to consider. Weinstein’s defense team argued that the women were using Weinstein to advance their own careers. Apparently the jury didn’t buy this, or didn’t care. 

Weinstein didn’t hold these women down and force himself upon them. He used his reputation and non-physical power to get them to do things they did not want to do. The women might have benefited professionally by saying yes, and they admit to later consensual encounters. This was not a traditional, clear-cut rape case. It was messy. It was line-blurring. And it may change how rape cases across the country are prosecuted. 

Prosecutor Admits The Law Is Evolving

In an interview with Axios News, prosecutor Cyrus Vance, who made the decision not to charge Weinstein in 2015, but lead the prosecution this time around, admits that the #metoo movement has changed his thinking on what constitutes sexual assault. 

“Vance said his belated decision to prosecute Weinstein was due to an ‘evolution of my understanding of the dynamics of sexual assaults…’ ‘I think in the aftermath of the #MeToo Movement in October 2017, society has evolved. And in terms of bringing cases, really those decisions are made on the facts and the law and not for any other reason. You have to do that in this job, or else you’d be zigzagging right and left every day because there’s always pressure from somebody,’ Vance added.”

This is quite the statement. Is he admitting that his previous decisions were not based on the facts and the law? Or is he saying the facts and the law mean something different in the post #metoo era? As a criminal defense attorney who regularly defends clients accused of rape and other sex crimes, this is troubling. 

If you have been charged with a sex crime, and you are looking for an attorney that will protect your rights, and stand by your side, please contact Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC to schedule an initial consultation

Posted in: Sex Crimes