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In Mixed Verdict, Harvey Weinstein Found Guilty Of Rape, Sexual Abuse

NOEL KING, HOST:

Harvey Weinstein is in custody. A jury convicted him yesterday of two felony sex crimes - rape and criminal sexual act. He was acquitted on three more serious charges. Women who have accused Weinstein - and there are more than 90 of them - celebrated.

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ROSANNA ARQUETTE: It's positive. It's overwhelming. We're crying. This is justice. And it's not just justice. It's justice for all women. It sets a precedent. Although we prayed that he was going to be charged on all five counts, this is a great start. It really is.

KING: That was actor Rosanna Arquette, one of his accusers. She talked to my colleague Mary Louise Kelly yesterday. I'm on the line with Cyrus Vance. He's the Manhattan district attorney who brought the charges against Weinstein. Good morning, sir.

CYRUS VANCE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: There was not much physical evidence in this case, as it essentially came down to who the jury believed - the victims or Weinstein. One of his defense lawyers, Arthur Aidala, said this to Mary Louise yesterday about the verdict.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ARTHUR AIDALA: We were successful. I mean, when you go from a count where you're facing life in prison to a count where you're eligible for probation, I mean, that's a victory.

KING: Was it a victory for Weinstein?

VANCE: I don't think it was a victory at all for Harvey Weinstein. He was convicted of criminal sexual act in the first degree, which carries a minimum prison term of five years and up to 25. And the judge can sentence him consecutively for the rape in the third-degree charge. Arthur, I think, is putting the best spin on it that he can. But the truth of the matter is it was a remarkable day. It's a new day. Harvey Weinstein has been held accountable for crimes he has been committing for decades. And the real heroes are the six survivors who agreed to testify at great personal risk and in great personal pain during the course of the trial. And the jury saw them, believed them. And I think, given the complexity of the relationships that were at issue, here we are in a new day because a jury has understood the complex dynamics that go on in sexual assault cases, believe the women. And now I think justice has been served.

KING: What will your office ask for on March 11 when sentencing is set?

VANCE: You know, I haven't sat down with the prosecutors, who did a great job in the courtroom. But my expectation is that it will be in the range of five to 25. It will be in the - it will be a substantial sentence we'll be asking for.

KING: In 2015, you declined to prosecute Mr. Weinstein. A woman had recorded him apologizing for groping her. Now, at that time, you said the evidence wasn't sufficient to charge him. You did end up taking a lot of criticism from a lot of people. Has this case changed your thinking on when to prosecute sex crimes cases?

VANCE: Well, Noel, I think, absolutely, I - and I believe many others - have since 2015 learned a great deal. 2017 was a watershed moment for, I think, all of us in America and certainly all of us in law enforcement. So yes, I have. I think this case is an example. We have a much more, I think, dimensional, sympathetic and better understanding of how victims of sexual assault behave. And that certainly was part of my thinking is we've made the decision to charge this case. We have definitely evolved.

KING: Has the #MeToo movement affected how you think about whether a case can be won in court? Because I know that's a big part of it - right? - is this case winnable? Has this whole thing changed your thinking to that end?

VANCE: Well, I think in taking the case, we made the decision that jurors would believe these women. And so we made the decision bringing the case that, yes, this is a complicated case. And the survivors had a great range of continued dealings with Mr. Weinstein, but they were able to, on the stand, tell their story and explain what happened and why in very simple and sometimes painful ways. And quite simply, the jury listened and believed them. The defense lawyer used all the typical victim-shaming tactics in cross-examination. But at the end of the day, the jurors saw through that. And we in working with these women in preparation for trial also saw through that, too. We knew they were - it's going to be a very difficult trial. It was. But the jury got it right. And they focused on each woman and her story. And each of those stories made sense.

KING: Do you think that the guilty verdict here will lead to more criminal cases against people accused of rape and sexual abuse?

VANCE: I do.

KING: Yeah.

VANCE: I think that this verdict does shift the ground in terms of sexual assault cases, particularly in the kinds of cases that we have with Mr. Weinstein. I think that prosecutors may look at this case and perhaps look differently at survivors that they are thinking of having as witnesses. I hope that the survivors themselves feel that - now that jurors, judges and prosecutors will listen to them and will believe them. And I think that combination will result in more charges being filed.

KING: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who brought the charges against Harvey Weinstein. Thank you so much for taking the time this morning.

VANCE: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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