Trump calls Weinstein conviction ‘great victory’

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US president Donald Trump has said Harvey Weinstein’s conviction for rape and sexual assault is a “great thing”.

Mr Trump called it a “great victory” for women that “sends a very strong message” for the #MeToo movement against that kind of behaviour towards women.

The president himself has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by more than a dozen women when he was a private citizen.

Speaking at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday at the end of a two-day trip to India, Mr Trump said he is not a “fan” of disgraced movie mogul Mr Weinstein.

A New York jury convicted the former Hollywood producer on Monday.

Weinstein had denied allegations of non-consensual sex.

New York prosecutors have hailed Weinstein’s conviction as a pivotal moment that could change the way the legal system views a type of sexual assault case historically considered difficult to prove.

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein (AP)

The jury convicted Weinstein anyway, finding the producer guilty of raping one woman in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006.

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said after the verdict was announced: “This is a new day.

“Rape is rape whether the survivor reports within an hour, within a year, or perhaps never. It’s rape despite the complicated dynamics of power and consent after an assault. It’s rape even if there is no physical evidence.”

Some women’s advocates cautioned that it is too soon to know how much the legal landscape has shifted.

“This is not a signal that our systems and institutions are magically transformed,” said Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organisation for Women’s New York chapter, who sat through most of the trial. “This is one case, one man. We’ve got to keep it in perspective.”

If any case encapsulated the #MeToo reckoning with sexual misconduct, gender dynamics and power as a form of coercion, it was Weinstein’s.

Dozens of women who crossed paths with Weinstein through the entertainment industry have said he bullied, pressured, coerced or overpowered them while demanding sexual favours.

The alleged encounters took place over many decades, amid movie screenings in Los Angeles, film festivals in Cannes, and business meetings in New York or London.

Cyrus Vance Jr
Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr (AP)

Weinstein’s defence team argued that the encounters were consensual, if perhaps “transactional”: He wanted sex, while they wanted access to his power over the film world.

Mr Vance initially declined to prosecute Weinstein when a model claimed he’d groped her in 2015. Facing criticism of the 2015 decision after waves of additional women came forward two years later, Mr Vance ultimately took some of their allegations to trial.

Harvey Weinstein court sketch
Harvey Weinstein is pictured in a courtroom sketch being led out of Manhattan Supreme Court by officers after his conviction (Elizabeth Williams/AP)

But Weinstein, 67, still faces the possibility of up to 29 years in prison. He is also facing separate charges in Los Angeles involving two more alleged sexual assault victims.

Criminal defence attorney Richard Kaplan said the New York case could both empower women to come forward and embolden prosecutors to take on tough cases.

“Now there is a roadmap on how you can win this kind of case,” he said, predicting more people would come forward.

“There’s always the fear of coming forward, you know, going through a trial, getting beat up and humiliated and then not getting that verdict. Now that they see it can be done, I think more people will come forward and definitely empower the movement.”

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