Weinstein Lawyer Confronts Allred, Escalating Trial Tension

Patricia Hurtado

(Bloomberg) -- Nerves seemed to be fraying at Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial Friday as the jury began its fourth day of deliberations.

Minutes before the panel returned to the courtroom in lower Manhattan to review testimony, there was a confrontation between the movie producer’s lead lawyer, Donna Rotunno, and Gloria Allred, who represents at least three Weinstein accusers. Rotunno then complained to the judge that Allred had violated her privacy -- and his gag order -- by talking to the news media about a funeral she was to attend.

New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke on Tuesday had barred both sides from talking to the press after defense lawyer Donna Rotunno published an editorial in Newsweek. He told the panel Thursday that court would adjourn early on Friday, at 3 p.m., without explanation. When Burke entered the courtroom Friday morning, Rotunno argued that Allred had effectively defied his order by telling the press the reason for the early adjournment.

“The government and Ms. Allred feel the need to attack me on a daily basis, which is fine -- she can attack me whenever she wants,” Rotunno said. “However, she is announcing to the media that I have to leave to attend a funeral. She’s out of line and unprofessional.”

Burke declined to rule in response to the complaint.

The panel of seven men and five women is deliberating after hearing three weeks of testimony in the trial, which began with jury selection on Jan. 6 and has riveted the nation as a crucible of the #MeToo movement. During the trial, Rotunno has frequently asked prosecution witnesses about Allred, suggesting through pointed questioning that Weinstein’s accusers made their claims in hopes of pursuing lawsuits against the defendant.

One of Allred’s clients is the actor Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s. The alleged rape is too old to be charged in New York state, but Sciorra is a crucial witness in the jury’s evaluation of the most serious charge against Weinstein, predatory sexual assault, which could send the fallen Hollywood power broker to prison for life if he is convicted.

Because court was in session, Allred declined to comment immediately on Rotunno’s complaint.

The jury on Thursday had asked to hear portions of Sciorra’s testimony again Friday, a request it has made more than once. It has also asked for further legal instructions on the predatory sexual assault charge.

On Friday, after Weinstein took a bathroom break, the panel sent a note to the judge.

“We the jury request to cease the reading of the testimony of Annabella Sciorra at this juncture,” it said. “The jury has heard enough.”

The court is in recess until 2:15 p.m.

The case is People v. Weinstein, 450293/2018, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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(Updates with recess line at end)

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey, Tina Davis

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