Trump Calls Weinstein Conviction a ‘Great Victory’ for Women

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Harvey Weinstein by admedia via Flickr

President Donald Trump says movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s conviction on criminal sexual assault and third-degree rape charges was a “great victory” for women.

Speaking at a news conference in New Delhi, where he is on a state visit, Trump said it sent a “very strong message” to women who were afraid to report sexual assault and harassment,  ABC News reports.

“I think from the standpoint of women it was a great thing, it was a great victory,” said Trump, who has denied numerous accusations of sexual assault—at times mocking the women who have made them.

At the same time, he used the opportunity for a political barb against Democrats.

“The people who liked [Weinstein] were the Democrats,” claimed Trump, who has been photographed together with Weinstein at social events. “He gave tremendous money to the Democrats.”

The question now, Trump said, is whether the Democrats give the money back?

Weinstein was found guilty of sexual assault Monday, the first conviction to emerge from the dozens of misconduct allegations against the once-powerful movie producer. The jury determined that Weinstein forced a sex act on former assistant Mimi Haley at his apartment in July 2006 and raped former aspiring actress Jessica Mann at a hotel in 2013, the Washington Post reported.

He was found not guilty of the most severe charge, predatory sexual assault, which would have acknowledged a pattern that included forcing sex on actress Annabella Sciorra in 1993 or 1994 and would have carried a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. The top conviction could bring up to 25 years in prison.

After the verdict announcement, Weinstein was handcuffed and jailed, and his bail was revoked.

The jury of seven men and five women heard about three weeks of testimony in New York State Supreme Court before beginning deliberations late Tuesday morning. They heard from Mann, Haley, Sciorra and three others who were allowed as support witnesses.

The case is a landmark of the #MeToo movement, which has brought a flurry of sexual assault and harassment allegations against powerful men and prompted conversations about gender and misconduct in all walks of life. The movement started after the New York Times and New Yorker published allegations against Weinstein in late 2017.

Tarana Burke, the creator of the #MeToo movement, said, “Harvey Weinstein operated with impunity and without remorse for decades in Hollywood. Yet, it still took years, and millions of voices raised, for one man to be held accountable by the justice system.”

She added: “This case reminds us that sexual violence thrives on unchecked power and privilege. The implications reverberate far beyond Hollywood and into the daily lives of all of us in the rest of the world.”

The verdict showed that journalism can profoundly influence the legal system by shining a public spotlight on the misdeeds of powerful people but also by scrutinizing the iniquities and limitations of the system itself, the Columbia Journalism Review reports.

As Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey wrote in the New York Times, the criminal case against Weinstein was “a long shot.” The evidence presented—which showed that the victims had consensual sex with Weinstein after he abused them—was messy, and lacking in corroborating forensics or direct witness testimony; as such, the case was a step beyond typical prosecutorial boundaries.

Its partial success, Kantor and Twohey wrote, “could prove a symbolic turning point”— showing “that sex crimes don’t necessarily follow neat scripts and reshaping public beliefs about which victims deserve their day in court.” Journalism didn’t just fell Harvey Weinstein. It’s had an institutional impact, too—however flawed our institutions may still look.

What’s next? On the first day of the Weinstein trial, Los Angeles prosecutors unveiled surprise new charges against him, including rape and sexual battery. Weinstein’s conviction in New York will likely help the L.A. prosecutors make their case, which is expected to proceed sometime after the sentencing in New York.

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