Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fate is in the hands of a New York City jury in the first trial for the man whose alleged misconduct helped spark the #MeToo movement.
A jury of seven men and five women started deliberating Tuesday in the closely watched trial as the world lies in wait to see if Weinstein will face consequences for his alleged actions. The ongoing trial has covered a lot of dicey legal ground that makes it difficult for the average person to fully grasp the scope of what Weinstein is on trial for and the stakes of a possible conviction on any or all of the five charges against him.
For those who aren’t familiar with the former Hollywood titan’s legal issues in New York, below are answers to some of the most common questions associated with the Harvey Weinstein trial:
WHAT IS HARVEY WEINSTEIN ACCUSED OF?
Scores of women have come forward since a 2017 expose in the New Yorker by Ronan Farrow saw several women accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct. However, his New York City trial stems from just three allegations.
The “Pulp Fiction” producer is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in March 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman, TV and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi, at his apartment in July 2006.
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The most serious charge, predatory sexual assault, requires jurors to decide two things: if he raped actress Annabella Sciorra in the mid-1990s and if he committed one of the charged acts.
HOW MUCH TIME COULD HARVEY WEINSTEIN FACE?
Each of the predatory sexual assault counts is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.
The first-degree rape and criminal sex act counts each carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Third-degree rape carries a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison.
WHAT’S THE WORST CASE SCENARIO FOR HARVEY WEINSTEIN?
He’s convicted of predatory sexual assault. Even if the jury finds Weinstein guilty on just one of those top-level counts, a minimum sentence would keep him in prison until he’s in his early 90s.
HOW DOES THE PREDATORY SEXUAL ASSAULT AGAINST HARVEY WEINSTEIN CHARGE WORK?
Under New York law, one way a person can be found guilty of predatory sexual assault is if he or she committed certain sex offenses in the past, even if that conduct didn’t result in criminal charges.
In Weinstein’s case, prosecutors allege that he raped Sciorra in late 1993 or early 1994 — an accusation that is too old to be the basis for criminal charges on its own because of the statute of limitations. However, Sciorra still testified against Weinstein along with three other women in an effort to help the prosecution establish a pattern of Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior.
DOES THE JURY HAVE TO REACH A VERDICT ON ALL CHARGES AGAINST HARVEY WEINSTEIN?
No. Weinstein is charged with five counts, but the way the verdict form is designed, jurors won’t have to make a decision on all of them.
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The form instructs the jury to start by reaching a verdict on the predatory sexual assault counts, which encompass the other charged acts. Depending on what they decide on those counts, they can move onto or skip other charges.
For example, if jurors find Weinstein guilty of the predatory sexual assault count alleging he both raped Sciorra and assaulted Haleyi, then the jury does not need to decide the criminal sex act charge involving Haleyi.
If the jury finds Weinstein guilty of the second predatory sexual assault count, alleging that he both raped Sciorra and raped the woman in 2013, then the jury does not need to decide the standalone rape charges involving the unnamed woman.
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If the jury decides Weinstein didn’t rape Sciorra, then it can’t find Weinstein guilty of either predatory sexual assault count.
If jurors acquit Weinstein of the second predatory sexual assault count because they don’t feel it was a first-degree rape, they must find him not guilty of that charge but can still consider a separate third-degree rape charge involving the woman.
WHAT IS HARVEY WEINSTEIN’S DEFENSE?
Weinstein maintains the encounters were consensual. His lawyer said that the allegations are “regret renamed as rape.” The defense grilled Haleyi and the 2013 accuser about meetings they had with Weinstein after the alleged assaults and highlighted friendly, flirtatious emails they sent him.
The defense also called witnesses to the stand meant to discredit the reports of Sciorra and the three other women who testified.
WOULD HARVEY WEINSTEIN HAVE TO REGISTER AS A SEX OFFENDER?
Yes. If Weinstein is convicted on any of the charges, he would be required to register as a sex offender under New York’s version of what’s known as Megan’s Law.
WOULD HARVEY WEINSTEIN BE HAULED OFF IN HANDCUFFS RIGHT AWAY?
If Weinstein is convicted on any of the charges, there’s a good chance his bail will be revoked and he’ll be taken to jail right away.
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Prosecutors could argue he’ll have extra incentive to flee and that he’s rich enough to do it. Even before the trial, prosecutors say he was showing signs of restlessness. A judge hiked his bail in December after prosecutors accused him of futzing with his electronic monitoring bracelet.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR HARVEY WEINSTEIN?
Win or lose, Weinstein faces more criminal charges in a California case announced last month, just as his New York trial was getting underway. In that matter, Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulted one woman and raping another on back-to-back nights days before the Oscars in February 2013.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.