Prosecutors accuse Harvey Weinstein's lawyer Donna Rotunno of 'tampering' after she wrote an op-ed addressing jurors days before deliberation

Getty Images/John LamparskiHarvey Weinstein and his lawyer Donna Rotunno after the start of his sex-assault trial on January 22, 2020, in New York.
  • Harvey Weinstein’s lead defence attorney, Donna Rotunno, published an op-ed in Newsweek on Sunday addressing the jurors in Weinstein’s New York rape trial.
  • Rotunno has come under fire from prosecutors for the piece, which was published ahead of jury deliberations on Tuesday.
  • Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi criticised the op-ed emphasising Weinstein’s innocence, claiming it “borders on tampering with the jury.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Sunday, Harvey Weinstein‘s lead defence attorney, Donna Rotunno, wrote an op-ed for Newsweek directed toward jurors in which she maintained her client’s innocence just two days before the media mogul’s rape-trial deliberations were to begin. Prosecutors were outraged at the op-ed, claiming the piece is tantamount to “jury tampering.”

In the op-ed, Rotunno claimed the media coverage throughout Weinstein’s trial was “all designed to pre-determine his guilt” and accused outlets of “twisting” the truth to implicate Weinstein in the alleged rape crimes.

Rotunno said jurors “have an obligation to themselves and their country, to base their verdict solely on the facts, testimony, and evidence presented to them in the courtroom” and implored jurors to “do what they know is right.”

Rotunno ended with an ominous warning to jurors that the “world is watching” their decision.

“The facts are the facts. Harvey Weinstein is innocent. His fate hangs in the balance, and the world is watching,” Rotunno wrote for Newsweek.

The op-ed immediately drew outrage from Weinstein’s prosecutors in the New York rape trial.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi vehemently objected to the op-ed and lambasted Rotunno, claiming the piece was “inappropriate” and “borders on tampering with the jury.”

“There’s no way that the sanctity and purity of a jury trial can ever exist and continue if every party is permitted to just go ahead and publicly say something that they would not be able to… in court,” Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said, the LA Times reported.

Rotunno defended the op-ed, claiming it was a critique on America’s criminal-justice system and aimed at combating the negative coverage of Weinstein throughout the trial. Although jurors have been instructed not to read any media coverage, Judge James M. Burke chastised the defence.

“You don’t think addressing the jury in the first person isn’t problematic?” Burke reportedly asked Rotunno’s cocounsel, Damon Cheronis. Burke has since placed a gag order on the defence team until the jury had reached a verdict, The New York Times reported.

“Defence team, you are ordered to refrain from communicating with the press until there is a verdict in the case,” Burke told Weinstein’s lawyers. “I would caution you about the tentacles of your public-relations juggernaut.”

It isn’t the first time Rotunno’s public comments have come under fire. Prosecutors had previously requested a gag order after Rotunno appeared on The New York Times podcast “The Daily.” Rotunno came under fire from sexual-assault advocates after she claimed that she had never been sexually assaulted because she would never “put herself in that position.”

Although she promised she would not engage in victim shaming, prosecutors accused Rotunno of painting accusers as liars simply seeking fame from Weinstein.

Rotunno has built much of her career defending men accused of sexual misconduct. Although Rotunno claims she is the “ultimate feminist,” Rotunno told Insider that she’s opposed to the #MeToo movement as part of her feminist views.

“Nobody wants to say, ‘If you want real equality, and you want things like #MeToo to not happen to you, you have to take on the risk of making different choices,'” Rotunno told Insider.

The disgraced media mogul pleaded not guilty to all five felony rape charges. Over 100 women have come forward accusing Weinstein of a variety of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and rape. Despite the numerous allegations, only two culminated into criminal charges in New York. Many sexual-assault survivors closely watched the trial, hoping it would result in criminal repercussions for his alleged sexual misconduct.

Jurors began deliberations for Weinstein’s New York rape trial on Tuesday, signalling an end to the trial. However, Weinstein’s legal woes are far from over. Following the outcome of the New York case, Weinstein will face another trial in Los Angeles related to four sexual assault charges filed there.

Read more:

Weinstein’s accusers say their lives have irreversibly changed since they went public with their allegations – and not always for the better

Harvey Weinstein’s attorney Donna Rotunno said in her closing argument that women should be more ‘responsible’ for their lives

Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno says she’s never been sexually assaulted because she wouldn’t ‘put herself in that position’

Harvey Weinstein previously admitted he ‘sometimes doesn’t know’ when his sexual relationships are ‘consensual,’ new documents reveal

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.